The following information about symptoms of sporadic, familial and iatrogenic CJD is provided by the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation.

Sporadic CJD (sCJD): In the most common subtype of sCJD (M/M 1), early symptoms are often like those of depression — mood swings, memory lapses, social withdrawal and lack of interest. However, rapid progression to dementia and obvious neurological symptoms distinguish CJD from depression. Within weeks, the patient may become unsteady on his/her feet, lacking in coordination and markedly clumsy. In some people, these are the first symptoms.4

Later symptoms may include hallucinations, blindness, rigidity in the limbs, sudden jerky movements and incontinence. Speech may become more difficult or slurred. Swallowing may become difficult. Eventually, the patient loses the ability to move or speak, clinically known as akinetic mutism.4

In some subtypes, the first clinical signs may affect movements often resulting in unsteady gait rather than dementia.4

Familial CJD: The symptoms of the familial form of CJD vary, depending on the type of mutation involved. There may even be great variation in the symptoms within affected members of the same family.4

Symptoms of familial CJD may include, but are not limited to, initial depression, bizarre or uncharacteristic behavior and memory lapses; fatigue and visual disturbances; within weeks, unsteadiness (gait ataxia) and lack of coordination (cerebellar ataxia); difficulties with speech and/or swallowing; and sudden jerky movements (myoclonus), rigid limbs, blindness and incontinence.4

Often times, familial CJD strikes at an earlier age than the sporadic form: the average age of onset is 52, compared to 65.4

Iatrogenic CJD (induced inadvertently by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures): Where transmission is intracerebral (such as through the use of contaminated neurosurgical instruments or contaminated dura mater graphs), the symptoms have been described as being more like the most common form of sCJD. However, peripherally acquired CJD (such as through contaminated human growth hormone), as well as dura mater graph-associated CJD reported in Japan, has been reported as more likely to occur at an early age with symptoms of ataxia predominating and initial symptoms of dementia being a rarer feature.4, 11 


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