What You Need To Know About Huntington’s Disease

by: Admin

Health

Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that affects the brain and breaks down its neurons. It is a genetic disease that degenerates all of the normal functioning of an individual. Once the disease develops, there is no stopping it from hindering one’s physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities. There is no cure or way to prevent it, so it is ultimately fatal. 

If your family does not have a history of Huntington’s disease, you probably will not develop it. However, if you know it is in your family, then it is best to learn more about the disease and discuss your family medical history with your doctor. This article will provide you with a basic introduction to Huntington’s disease, including the cause, symptoms, and treatment options. 

Cause

Huntington’s disease has only one cause: genetics. The disease develops due to a DNA error that occurs in a specific gene called the huntingtin gene. This error causes the building blocks of the gene to repeat abnormally. Though this error is small and difficult to detect, it makes way for an incredibly painful and heartbreaking disease. 

Therefore Huntington’s disease is a genetic disease and cannot develop in any other way. Unfortunately, this is also what makes it so difficult to treat or prevent. As of now, there are no methods of prevention, treatment, or slowing down the disease. 

Since Huntington’s disease is incredibly rare, you have a very small chance of developing it. However, the most important way to determine if you are at risk for Huntington’s disease is to know your family medical history. Individuals whose parents carry the disease have a 50/50 chance of developing it themselves. If one of your parents or another family member has Huntington’s disease, then let your doctor know right away. 

Symptoms 

Huntington’s disease affects the entire brain. Therefore, physical, mental, and emotional behavior are all affected. As it is a progressive disease, the symptoms that first appear will be mild but worsen in time. Furthermore, additional symptoms will make themselves known in later stages. However, the disease generally limits the mobility and cognitive abilities of the affected individual as well as significantly alters their mood or personality. Below are lists of some of the common symptoms of Huntington’s disease

Physical symptoms

  • Involuntary jerking or writhing movements
  • Deliberate movements are slow and rigid
  • Difficulty walking or changing posture
  • Stumbling or clumsiness
  • Impaired communication abilities
  • Problems with eating or swallowing
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Rigid muscles
  • Impaired gait or balance
  • Breathing issues

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems with memory
  • Inflexible thinking
  • Emotional outbursts and acting out
  • Slow to process thoughts
  • Difficulty in taking in any new information

Mood/Psychiatric Symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Social isolation
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Significant changes in personality

**If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.**

Treatments

There is no cure for Huntington’s disease, which is why an official diagnosis is a terrifying and heartbreaking experience. Though there are ways to manage symptoms and improve quality of life, the disease will progress and is ultimately fatal. 

Some individuals with Huntington’s disease take medication to manage their symptoms. Some medications can help with motor control, and others are taken for the psychiatric and mood symptoms that arise. 

Physical therapy may also help an affected individual with basic movements, such as swallowing safely. Furthermore, a speech therapist can help the individual continue speaking as long as possible or find other ways to communicate with loved ones. 

As of right now, there are no treatments to reverse or slow Huntington’s disease. However, many studies worldwide are researching ways to prevent, combat, and cure it. Some options on the table can reverse or slow the damage that the disease causes. Other options may be able to reduce the mutant gene that causes the disease and thereby prevent it from developing. Though no significant option is available yet, some studies are in advanced stages, which means there is still hope for people with Huntington’s disease. 

Final Thoughts

Huntington’s disease is a tragic diagnosis that has affected too many families. Though it starts with a minor error in the DNA, it takes over the entire body and is always fatal. If your family has a history of Huntington’s disease, talk with your doctor right away to see if you are experiencing any symptoms or show any indication that you have it as well. 

If you wish to learn more about Huntington’s disease, you can find more resources and information here

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