Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis

Alternative Names

SSPE; Subacute sclerosing leukoencephalitis; Dawson´s encephalitis

Definition of Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a progressive, debilitating, and deadly brain disorder related to measles (rubeola) infection.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Ordinarily, the measles virus does not cause brain damage, but an abnormal immune response to measles or, possibly, certain mutant forms of the virus may cause severe illness and death. This leads to brain inflammation (swelling and irritation) that may last for years.

Signs and tests

There may be a history of measles in an unvaccinated child. A physical examination may reveal:

Treatment

No cure for SSPE exists. However, certain antiviral drugs may slow the progression of the disease.

Expectations (prognosis)

Persons with this disease frequently die 1 to 2 years after diagnosis, but some may survive for longer periods. The condition is always deadly.

Review

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 7/26/2010

Central nervous system

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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