Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a brain disorder. It
progresses and is typically fatal. An abnormal reaction by your immune system
to the measles virus, or rubeola, is likely the cause. It causes inflammation,
swelling, and irritation of your brain. It may occur years after you recover
from the measles.
SSPE is a rare disease. It usually occurs in children and adolescents, and
it’s more common in males than females. In the Unites States, where young
children routinely receive the measles vaccine, the incidence of SSPE is
less than 10 per year, reports the National Institute of Neurological Disorders
and Stroke (NINDS). In countries that lack standard immunization programs, the
incidence is higher. Immunization against the measles virus is the only way to
If you contract the measles, you won’t necessarily develop SSPE. In fact,
most people who get the measles never develop SSPE. Experts are still studying
why SSPE develops. Many believe that it’s caused an abnormal immune response to
the measles virus or possibly mutated forms of the virus.
are the symptoms of SSPE?
If you develop SSPE, you may experience:
- gradual changes in your behavior
- unusual behavior
- a decrease in your cognitive and social abilities
- difficulty completing schoolwork or work
- muscle spasms or jerking
- tense or lax muscles
- weakness in both legs
- an unsteady gait
- a coma
If you’re experiencing seizures, you need to take precautions
to avoid injuries that may occur during them.
is SSPE diagnosed?
After asking about your medical history, your doctor will check for the
following signs of SSPE:
- damage to your optic nerve
- damage to the retinas in your eyes
- muscle twitching
- poor performance on movement and coordination tests
Your doctor may also request additional tests or procedures, such as:
- an electroencephalogram
- an MRI
- a spinal tap
- a serum antibody titer, which is a blood test to check
for a previous measles infection
is SSPE treated?
No cure is available for SSPE. However, your doctor can prescribe some
antiviral drugs that may slow the progression of your condition. They may also
prescribe anticonvulsant drugs to control seizures. According to NINDS,
most people with SSPE die within one to three years. In some cases, they live
How can you prevent
The only way to prevent SSPE is to get the measles vaccine. According to the
Organization, the measles vaccine has been available for 50 years. It’s
effective, safe, and inexpensive. The organization recommends immunizing all
children with two doses of the measles vaccine, either alone or in a
measles-mumps-rubella or a measles-rubella combination. Unimmunized adults
should also be immunized.
If you haven’t received the immunization, ask your doctor about the measles vaccine.
In addition to preventing SSPE, it can also help you avoid contracting measles.
The measles virus can cause:
- inflammation of your brain
Measles can even cause death. Getting the vaccine is a simple and safe way
to keep yourself safe.