Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis
(SSPE; Dawson Disease)
DefinitionSubacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a condition that affects the brain and spine. It is a gradual break down of nerve cells from constant swelling.When left untreated, SSPE almost always leads to death.
|Central Nervous System|
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CausesSSPE is caused either by an altered form of the measles virus or an abnormal immune response to measles. It occurs anywhere from 2-10 years after contracting measles.
Risk FactorsSSPE is more common in male, and in those aged 5-15 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of SSPE include:
- Measles infection in infancy
- Not being vaccinated against measles
- Arabs and Sephardic Jews have an incidence that is 6 times higher than Ashkenazi Jews.
- Caucasians have a 4-fold higher incidence than African Americans in the United States.
SymptomsSymptoms of SSPE may include:
- Abnormal behavior
- Loss of intellectual abilities
- Memory loss
- Involuntary movements
- Inability to walk
- Speech impairment with poor understanding
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of consciousness
DiagnosisYour doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.Tests may include blood tests and an electrocardiogram (EKG).Imaging tests to evaluate bodily structures may include:
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