Dementia that ‘gets worse unusually fast’ – Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease03/01/2023
Dr Zoe says walking can reduce risk of dementia
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Accounting for 85 percent of cases, sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a type of dementia that typically first appears between the ages of 60 to 65. Yet, according to the national health service, the condition can develop between the ages of 45 to 75. The brain condition “appears to be caused by an abnormal infectious protein called a prion”, the NHS says.
As prions accumulate in the brain, they cause “irreversible damage to nerve cells”.
Could I catch Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)?
The NHS clarifies: “In theory, CJD can be transmitted from an affected person to others.
“But only through an injection or consuming infected brain or nervous tissue.
“There’s no evidence that sporadic CJD is spread through ordinary day-to-day contact with those affected or by airborne droplets, blood or sexual contact.”
People who develop sporadic CJD experience symptoms that affect the workings of the nervous system.
Initial neurological symptoms of the brain condition include:
- Difficulty walking caused by problems with balance and co-ordination
- Slurred speech
- Numbness or pins and needles in different parts of the body
- Vision problems, such as double vision
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there).
Advanced symptoms can include:
- Loss of physical co-ordination, which can affect a wide range of functions, such as walking, speaking and balance (ataxia)
- Muscle twitches and spasms
- Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence) and bowel control (bowel incontinence)
- Swallowing difficulties (dysphagia)
- Loss of speech
- Loss of voluntary movement.
Advanced psychological symptoms can include:
- Loss of memory, which is often severe
- Problems concentrating
- Feeling agitated
- Aggressive behaviour
- Loss of appetite, which can lead to weight loss
- Unusual and inappropriate emotional responses.
Experts at the Alzheimer’s Association state “rapid symptom progression is one of the most important clues that a person may have Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease”.
The charity notes: “Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease causes a type of dementia that gets worse unusually fast.”
At present, there is no treatment that can slow or stop the underlying brain cell destruction caused by the disease.
The rarity of the disease makes it harder for researchers to search for appropriate treatment.
Worldwide, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease occurs in about one in one million people.
More common types of dementia include: Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of ageing, and the most notable sign of the condition is difficulty remembering newly learned information.
“Serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work may be a sign that brain cells are failing,” the charity adds.
In terms of vascular dementia, this form of the brain condition may occur following a stroke.
Inadequate blood flow to the brain can lead to the death of brain cells, which can impact thinking capabilities.
Depending on the severity of brain damage, symptoms can include:
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Difficulty walking
- Poor balance
- Numbness or paralysis on one side of the face or the body.
There is evidence from clinical trials that medication approved to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease could be of “modest benefit” to those who have vascular dementia.
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