Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

An Ultimately Fatal Brain Disease

What is CJD?

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) is a rare, fatal brain disorder. The disease leads to rapid progress of mental impairment and inability to control the muscles.

A Normal Brain

Functional brains control virtually everything your body does through signals sent down the spinal cord to the cells of the body. It also tells you how to react, and determines your intelligence and mental capability. With CJD, this ability is impaired and patients cannot complete the necessary functions of everyday life. Neurons, cells in your brain that relay messages back and forth between cells, are destroyed when a person exhibits CJD. This leads to mental impairment and i ultimately fatal.
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The Symptoms of CJD

Initially, most patients with CJD will experience:
  • problems with muscle coordination

  • chronic dementia

  • poor judgement, decision making, and memory lapses

  • eye problems

Individually, they might express:

  • blindness

  • depression

  • insomnia

  • "unusual sensations"

As the illness progresses, the patient will lose the ability to move or speak and enter a coma. During this coma, pneumonia often occurs and the patient dies.

Who is Susceptible?

CJD is not gender biased and affects about 1 in a million people every year. There are about 300 cases in the U.S. People with sporadic CJD are likely to be 60 years or older, while people with variant CJD are decades younger. The mean age of symptom onset for vCJD is 28, while the onset age for sCJD is 68.

The Cause of CJD

No one has been able to prove what causes CJD ever since the disease was discovered in the 1920s by German scientists Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt and Alfons Maria Jakob. There are some unlikely theories that CJD is caused by an invading micro-organism, but scientists have never been able to isolate it. A more commonly accepted theory is that CJD is caused by prions- microscopic proteins in your body that naturally help and mutate to harm.


There is no diagnostic test for CJD. A doctor's first concern is to rule out treatable forms of dementia. This is done by performing a spinal tap and an EEG (electroencephalogram) on the patient to monitor brain waves. CJD patients possess irregular brain waves than a normal person. Currently, the only way to determine CJD in a patient is by performing a brain biopsy or autopsy. In a brain biopsy, a portion of the brain is removed by a neurosurgeon while the patient is unconscious. During a brain biopsy the whole brain is removed and examined after the death of the patient.

Living with CJD- for Forty Days

CJD Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease - Mayo Clinic

Treatment for CJD

There is no treatment for CJD. Scientists are working to improve dangerous tests so that an effective treatment can be developed.


Anybody who contracts CJD will usually die within one year, although there have been cases in Japan where the symptoms progress over a time span of decades.


I encountered this subject while taking a course on Coursera online on infectious diseases. I do not know anyone with this disease. I am interested in the field of neurology and would like to investigate subjects doctors know next-to-nothing about.

Health Project Bibliography

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