What is Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a neurological illness that causes damage to the brain. It is fatal, and there is no known cure.
CJD is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion which contaminates the nervous system. Prions can survive extremes of heat and radiation and cannot be broken down by enzymes. Prions kill brain cells and make holes in the brain, causing it to become sponge-like.
There are four types of CJD: sporadic CJD, variant CJD, iatrogenic CJD and inherited prion disease.
How common is Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is rare. In 2009, 59 people died of sporadic CJD in the UK, the most common form. It generally affects middle-aged and older people.
What are the symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?
Early symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease include emotional and behavioural problems, delusions, hallucinations, neurological problems and memory loss.
Rapid deterioration leads to the later stage symptoms, which include confusion, memory loss, blindness and loss of co-ordination. Months later, they are unable to walk, speak and care for themselves. They are unaware of their surroundings and usually develop jerking movements of their muscles.
How is Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease treated?
There is no proven therapy or cure for any form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, so treatment involves keeping the patient comfortable with use of medicines. Death commonly occurs within 6 months.
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