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NINDS Disorders is an index of neurological conditions provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This valuable tool offers detailed descriptions, facts on treatment and prognosis, and patient organization contact information for over 500 identified neurological disorders.

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Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker Disease

Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease (GSS) is an extremely rare, neurodegenerative brain disorder. It is almost always inherited and is found in only a few families around the world. Onset of the disease usually occurs between the ages of 35 and 55. In the early stages, patients may experience varying levels of ataxia (lack of muscle coordination), including clumsiness, unsteadiness, and difficulty walking. As the disease progresses, the ataxia becomes more pronounced and most patients develop dementia. Other symptoms may include dysarthria (slurring of speech), nystagmus (involuntary movements of the eyes), spasticity (rigid muscle tone), and visual disturbances, sometimes leading to blindness. Deafness also can occur. In some families, parkinsonian features are present. GSS belongs to a family of human and animal diseases known as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other TSEs include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, kuru, and fatal familial insomnia.

Treatment

There is no cure for GSS, nor are there any known treatments to slow progression of the disease. Current therapies are aimed at alleviating symptoms and making the patient as comfortable as possible.

Prognosis

GSS is a slowly progressive condition usually lasting from 2 to 10 years. The disease ultimately causes severe disability and finally death, often after the patient goes into a coma or has a secondary infection such as aspiration pneumonia due to an impaired ability to swallow.

Research

The NINDS supports and conducts research on TSEs, including GSS. Much of this research is aimed at characterizing the agents that cause these disorders, clarifying the mechanisms underlying them, and, ultimately, finding ways to prevent, treat, and cure them.

View a list of studies currently seeking patients.

View more studies on this condition.

Organizations

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Rm. 5C27 MSC 2292
Bethesda, MD 20892-2292
Tel: 301-496-1752 800-222-2225 TTY: 800-222-4225

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)

Federation of voluntary health organizations dedicated to helping people with rare "orphan" diseases and assisting the organizations that serve them. Committed to the identification, treatment, and cure of rare disorders through programs of education, advocacy, research, and service.

55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-798-2291

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