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NINDS Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker Disease Information Page


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What is 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.

Is there any 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.

What is the 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.

What research is being done?

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.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker Disease Clinical Trials

Organizations

Column1 Column2
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT   06810
orphan@rarediseases.org
http://www.rarediseases.org
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-798-2291

National Institute on Aging (NIA)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Rm. 5C27 MSC 2292
Bethesda, MD   20892-2292
http://www.nia.nih.gov
Tel: 301-496-1752 800-222-2225 TTY: 800-222-4225



Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated February 13, 2007