Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

28 April, 2021

Creutzfeldt-Jakob {KROITS-felt YAH-kobe} disease (CJD) is an extremely rare, fatal disease that affects the brain. What are its symptoms, its causes, and its treatment? Let's find out.  

Symptoms of CJD 

Since the disease severely affects the brain, most of its symptoms are results of cognitive impairment. The most major ones include: 

  • Loss of intellect and memory 

  • Changes in personality 

  • Loss of balance and coordination 

  • Speech and vision problems 

Unfortunately, the symptoms get progressively worse with time, making cognition, personality, movement, and other senses irreversibly damaged.  

Lastly, the disease is fatal — its patients are expected to die within a year since severe symptoms begin to emerge.  

Causes of CJD 

CJD is caused by the presence of an abnormal protein called a prion. Prions, like harmful pollutants, accumulate in brain cells, disrupting vital processes and, as a result, cause the fatal symptoms listed above.  

Prions are known to have four sources, and hence there are four kinds of CJD.  

  • First is sporadic CJD, the most common kind, which is caused by a protein that for some unknown reason "folds" abnormally, turning into a prion.  

  • The second is variant CJD (vCJD), which is caused by the consumption of contaminated meat, especially beef.  

  • The third is inherited CJD, which is the result of an extremely rare genetic change. Inherited CJD, is an extremely rare genetic disease that is likely to be inherited from a family member, wherein the rare genetic change causes proteins to misfold into prions.  

  • And fourth is iatrogenic CJD, which is accidentally spread from someone with CJD through medical or surgical treatment, such as improperly cleansed surgical equipment or ill-executed hormone therapy.  

All four, even sporadic CJD, are extremely rare diseases, affecting, on average, 2 in 9 million people worldwide. CJD hence is one of the rarest diseases we have yet discovered.  

Treatment of CJD 

CJD's cure is yet to be discovered. Infectious prions cannot be destroyed by antibiotics or antivirals, or by any radiation we know of.  

Its treatment involves either preventing the disease altogether. For example, being cautious of consuming contaminated meat. Or managing its symptoms by treating the anxiety or pain that accompanies them. 

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