Huntington’s disease is a disease which further results in the slow loss of affected brain cells. It is an inherited condition that typically begins in adulthood.
At present time, typical Huntington’s disease is a lethal condition. Huntington’s disease is identified by involuntary movements, dementia and psychological disturbances that worsen as the disease becomes chronic.
Symptoms of Huntington’s disease
The symptoms of Huntington’s disease varies from person to person. Not everyone with Huntington’s disease has the same type of symptoms or develops every symptom. The symptoms tend to progress with time and worsen over time.
If Huntington’s disease does not run in your family, at times it can take a while for it to be diagnosed. This is because some of the early symptoms can often be overlooked or attributed to other problems - for example, subtle changes in your personality or mood swings.
The symptoms of Huntington’s disease can be grouped into three main areas:
- Problems with movement
- Problems with cognition
- Mood and behavioral problems
What is the treatment of Huntington’s disease?
At present there is no cure for Huntington’s disease. Also, there is no treatment that has been found to delay the onset of symptoms or to delay the progression of symptoms. So, treatment is focused on trying to control symptoms as much as possible when they do develop.
Treatments with medicines
There are a number of medicines that can be used to help treat the disease. A cluster of medicines known as benzodiazepines is often used first. Examples of these medicines can be clonazepam and diazepam.
Other medicines, including tetrabenazine, can also be used. Still, all of these medicines can have possible side-effects. For example, they can lead to slowing down of your movements (bradykinesia), stiffness or rigidity, depression or sedation.
If you are having some problems with bradykinesia and stiff or rigid limbs, a cluster of medicines called dopamine agonists may be helpful. Another medicine called levodopa is an alternative. These medicines are commonly used to treat Parkinson's disease where there is similar slowing of movements and rigidity.
If you develop depression, antidepressant medicines can be helpful. Medicines are also available to treat some other mental health problems that may be linked with Huntington’s disease.
Most people with Huntington’s disease have a team of specialists who work with them. The team members can comprise of a specialist of brain, nerve and muscle problems (a neurologist), a psychiatrist and a genetic counselor.
You can also be referred to a physiotherapist for help with exercises for your balance and exercises to help you move around more easily. An occupational therapist can be able to help you with the adaptations that you will need to make your day-to-day life easier.
For example, they can help with adjustment at your home such as wheelchair access, rails and changes to your bedroom and bathroom.
A speech and language therapist may be able to help with speech or swallowing difficulties. They may be able to teach you different ways of communicating.
You can be referred to a dietician if you lose a lot of weight. Dietician can advise about food that may be easier for you to eat because they involve less chewing.
Sometimes swallowing problems can mean that you need to consider having a nasogastric tube fitted. This is a tube which passes through your nose to your stomach so that food can be delivered to your stomach without you having to swallow.