Stages of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
In sporadic CJD, the first symptom may look like depression. The disease progresses rapidly to symptoms of confusion and memory problems. This can occur in a matter of weeks. In the next stage, a person develops problems with muscle coordination and balance followed by progressive loss of sight. With time, people become more confused and unable to walk or talk. They lose awareness of their surroundings and the ability to care for themselves. Death may occur within a matter of weeks or up to 6 months.
Symptoms of familial or genetic disease are similar to sporadic CJD. Disease progression is more varied, however. In some cases, the disease progresses as rapidly as it does in sporadic CJD. In other cases, dementia develops more slowly over a few years.
Disease progression in medical cases depends on how the disease was acquired and may range from weeks to several months. Symptoms may be similar to those of sporadic CJD or may involve progressive loss of coordination and balance.
Mad cow disease or vCJD usually affects younger people and begins with emotional or behavioral changes, such as social withdrawal, depression, or excessive sleepiness, anxiety or agitation. Sometimes vCJD causes delusions (abnormal beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there). Patients may also have pain or numbness in arms, legs or other parts of the body. Within months, muscle coordination declines and people develop poor balance and clumsiness. They may also have abnormal dancelike movements called chorea or they may become rigid. With time, persons with vCJD are unable to care for themselves. They may stop speaking, have difficulty swallowing, and develop dementia. Life expectancy following diagnosis of vCJD is from one year to, at most, three years.