Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a condition that affects the brain and spine. It is a gradual break down of nerve cells from constant swelling.
When left untreated, SSPE almost always leads to death.
Central Nervous System
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SSPE is caused either by an altered form of the
virus or an abnormal immune response to measles. It occurs anywhere from 2-10 years after contracting measles.
SSPE is more common in males, and in those aged 5-15 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of SSPE include: Measles infection in infancyNot being vaccinated against measles
Arabs and Sephardic Jews have an incidence that is 6 times higher than Ashkenazi Jews.Caucasians have a 4-fold higher incidence than African Americans in the United States.
Symptoms of SSPE may include: Abnormal behaviorIrritabilityLoss of intellectual abilitiesMemory lossInvoluntary movementsSeizuresInability to walkSpeech impairment with poor understandingDifficulty swallowingBlindnessMutenessLoss of consciousness
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include blood tests and an electrocardiogram
Imaging tests to evaluate bodily structures may include: CT scanMRI scan
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan. Treatment options include:
With advanced disease, tube feedings and nursing care may be necessary.
Anticonvulsant medications can reduce some symptoms of SSPE. In addition, there is some evidence that certain medications may help stabilize the disease and/or delay its progression.
The best way to prevent SSPE is to get immunized to avoid contracting measles. The measles vaccine is generally given at 12-15 months of age and again at 4-6 or 11-12 years. If you have not been vaccinated, avoid contact with people who are infected with measles until all of their symptoms are gone.
Campbell H, Andrews N, Brown KE, Miller E. Review of the effect of measles vaccination on the epidemiology of SSPE.
Int. J. Epidemiol. 2007;36:1134-1148.
Chiu MH, Meatherall B, Nikolic A, et al. Lancet Infect Dis. 2016 Jan [Epub ahead of print].
Complications of measles. Center for Disease Control (CDC) website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/complications.html. Updated February 17, 2015. Accessed February 12, 2016.
NINDS subacute sclerosing panencephalitis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
Updated April 30, 2015. Accessed February 12, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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