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Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - (CJD)
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Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - (CJD)

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BRAIN & NERVOUS SYSTEM

Degenerative Diseases

From MayoClinic.com

Screening and diagnosis

Only a brain biopsy or an examination of brain tissue after death (autopsy) can definitively confirm the presence of CJD or vCJD. But doctors often can make an accurate diagnosis based on your medical and personal history, a neurologic exam and certain diagnostic tests.

The exam is likely to reveal such characteristic symptoms as muscle twitching and spasms, abnormal reflexes and coordination problems. People with CJD also may have areas of blindness and changes in visual-spatial perception.

In addition doctors commonly use these tests to help detect CJD:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG). Using electrodes placed on your scalp, this test measures your brain's electrical activity. People with CJD and vCJD show a characteristically abnormal pattern.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This technique uses radio waves and a magnetic field to create cross-sectional images of your head and body. It's especially useful in diagnosing brain disorders because of its high-resolution images of the brain's white matter and gray matter.

  • Spinal fluid tests. Cerebral spinal fluid surrounds and cushions your brain and spinal cord. In a test called a lumbar puncture — popularly known as a spinal tap — doctors use a needle to withdraw a small amount of this fluid for testing. The presence of a particular protein in spinal fluid is often an indication of CJD or vCJD.

Complications

What makes CJD and vCJD particularly devastating is that both diseases destroy personalities as well as bodies. Physical complications include infection, heart failure and respiratory failure — a serious condition in which the body doesn't receive enough oxygen to carry out its metabolic processes. But as deadly as these can be, the psychosocial complications are equally cruel.

People with CJD and vCJD usually withdraw from friends and family and eventually lose the ability to recognize or relate to them in any meaningful way. They also lose the ability to care for themselves and may become aggressive, engaging in behavior that can be dangerous to themselves or to others.

Treatment

No effective treatment exists for either CJD or vCJD. A number of drugs have been tested — including steroids, antibiotics and antiviral agents — with disappointing results. For that reason, doctors focus on alleviating pain and other symptoms and on making people with these diseases as comfortable as possible.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/14/08 11:17 PM