A complex genetic disorder that takes a toll on a person’s capacity to move, feel and think freely, Huntington’s disease is a degenerative disorder. The symptoms continue to go worse with time and this disease is usually inherited from parents, either from one of them or both. It is triggered by mutation in DNA chromosomes, leading to the degeneration of nerve cells in human brain. It is neither preventable nor curable. The disorder was named after a physician, George Huntington.
Huntington’s disease triggers degenerative damages to the brain and brings in emotional and physical changes. It can occur to every 1 in 30000 persons, on an average. The ailment affects both genders across all races and ethnicity. It mostly affects adults, but instances of juvenile Huntington’s disease are not unheard of either. When a child inherits the genes responsible for the onset of the ailment it may take up to 30 years or more before the symptoms start appearing. A number of persons afflicted with the persons end up becoming depressed and commit suicide.
Main Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease
The major symptoms, patients can exhibit include:
- Loss of balance, coordination
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Increased clumsiness
- Stumbling or falling
- Anger or irritability
- Poor memory or dementia
- Twitching and such uncontrolled movement
- Decline in cognitive abilities
With time, the affected persons suffer further loss in memory, balance, general cognitive functioning and even fail to recognize known people or objects. They can also become subjected to psychotic behavior like hallucinations and paranoia.
Diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease
There are actually 3 levels of Genetic testing that can confirm possibility and the presence of the ailment in women and men:
- Prenatal testing-CVS and amniocentesis.
- Pre-symptomatic testing.
- Confirmatory testing.
Available Treatment Options For Huntington’s Disease
There is no remedy to cure this ailment. Medications are administered to control some of the symptoms that patients develop with time. Physicians can offer some medications to reduce erratic emotional developments as well. No medication, however can reverse the symptoms.
Modern treatments for Huntington’s disease focus on living with an acceptable level of comfort and support. This covers
- Psychosocial support
- Diet and supplements
The medications given to control symptoms found in patients include:
- Medications like clonazepam and amantadine.
- Antipsychotic drugs like chlorpromazine and haloperidol.
- Mood-stabilizing drugs like valproate and carbamazepine.
These drugs are given mostly to suppress involuntary jerking and erratic movements the victims exhibit. However, some medications can cause side effects like restlessness and drowsiness. In some victims medications can cause skin discoloration and swelling in legs. Since most medications can trigger some adverts effects in afflicted persons, detailed consultation with doctors is a prerequisite before such medications can be given to them.
Alternative Treatment Options
- To help the victims cope with behavioral problems, psychotherapy is often applied. A qualified psychologist can be of great use for the afflicted persons.
- Since Huntington’s disease can lead to slurred speech, victims can benefit from application of speech therapy to an extent. This also helps alleviate some problems related with eating as it is.
- Sometimes, specially developed physical therapy can be useful for patients of Huntington’s disease. Veteran physical therapists can offer apt and safe workout measures for the afflicted persons. These can help them gain better control of muscles and minimize risk of falling. At times using special walking stick is required.
- It will be worthwhile to opt for the services of an occupational therapist to cope with symptoms of this ailment. Such a therapist and professional can guide both the victim and his or her family members to cope with symptoms better. The therapist can guide the victims to use handrails and other assistive devices to carry out daily chores.
Eating Related Measures
Since people afflicted with Huntington’s disease have difficulty in eating and swallowing foods. Hence, they may need more than three large meals a day. It may be helpful if you offer them foods that require less chewing and that are easy to swallow. Specialized bowls and utensils can be used for feeding them. In advanced stages, there may be no other options than feeding the victims by others.