Definition

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a deadly brain illness that leads to dementia that gets worse with time. CJD is rare.

It is not the same as Variant CJD (vCJD), which is caused by eating contaminated beef.

Causes

It is thought that CJD is caused by proteins in the body called prions. The ones that may cause CJD fold up in a way that is not normal.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk depend on the type of CJD. There are three subtypes:

  • Sporadic CJD—more common in people aged 50 years and older
  • Iatrogenic CJD—happens after things like brain tissue grafts and cornea transplants
  • Familial CJD—happens to people in the same family

Symptoms

Symptoms may be:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of focus
  • Problems making choices
  • Problems moving, such as muscle spasms
  • Eyesight problems
  • Problems speaking
  • Changes in personality
  • Problems sleeping

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests will be done to rule out other causes of dementia.

These tests may be done to make the diagnosis:

The only way to confirm the disease is through an autopsy after death.

MRI Scan of the Brain
MRI of the Brain
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Treatment

There is no cure for CJD. It is treated by managing symptoms with:

  • Pain medicine
  • Antiseizure medicine to treat problems like muscle spasms

Prevention

There are infection control guidelines to prevent iatrogenic CJD. There are no guidelines to prevent other types of CJD.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2019 -
  • Update Date: 10/14/2019 -