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Rare neurological diseases

Last updated: September 2, 2021

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Rare neurological diseases may be inherited, postinfectious, iatrogenic, or of unknown etiology. They can affect the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves. Symptoms range from mild tremors to significant motor and cognitive impairment. Therapy is often supportive.

The name adrenoleukodystrophy means dystrophy (tissue wasting) of the adrenals and the white matter (leuko) of the nervous system.





Diseases caused by prion infection. Prion diseases affect both animals and humans. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and variant CJD are discussed in a separate card.

Kuru [6][7]

  • Definition: a rapidly lethal prion infection
  • Etiology: acquired through ritualistic cannibalism
  • Pathophysiology: neuronal loss, gliosis, and spongiform degeneration of cerebral gray matter
  • Clinical features
  • Treatment: supportive

Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome [7]

  • Definition: a general peripheral nerve hyperexcitability disorder of unknown etiology
  • Clinical features
  • Differential diagnosis
    • Benign fasciculation syndrome: a chronic condition characterized by profuse fasciculations without muscle weakness, atrophy, or other neurological abnormalities
    • Neuromyotonia: a rare syndrome associated with VGKC-antibody complexes characterized by continuous fasciculations, muscle stiffness, myokymias, and myotonic appearance of movements after muscle contraction.
  • Treatment: supportive
  • Definition: an autosomal recessive chronic degenerative neurological disease
  • Clinical features
  • Treatment: supportive
  • Prognosis: lethal before the third decade of life
  • Definition: a rare neurologic disease characterized by binge eating, hypersomnia, and hypersexuality
  • Epidemiology: mainly affects adolescent males
  • Etiology: unknown (although viral infections have been implicated)
  • Clinical features
    • Recurrent hypersomnia (patients are only awake for 1–2 hours per day)
    • Hypersexuality when awake
    • Binge eating
  • Treatment: supportive
  • Definition: a severe neurodegenerative disorder caused by administration of clioquinol
  • Epidemiology: Most cases were confined to Japan in the 1960's.
  • Etiology: iatrogenic (induced by the drug clioquinol)
  • Clinical features
    • Progressive paralysis
    • Blindness
  • Treatment: reversible (withdraw clioquinol)
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