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Huntington’s disease: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About Huntington’s disease

Huntington’s disease is a neurological disorder, characterised by involuntary muscle movements accompanied with emotional liability and impaired intellect. It is an inherited disorder which results from the degeneration of brain cells.

Huntington’s disease: Incidence, age and sex

Huntington’s disease is not a very common disorder. It occurs in 1 in every 10,000 individuals. Though it is present since birth, it does not manifest before 30 years of age. It usually occurs with equal frequency in both men and women.

Signs and symptoms of Huntington’s disease: Diagnosis

Huntington’s disease is characterised by episodes of uncontrolled muscle movements which can be of jerking or writhing type. It is usually localised to the muscles of the face, the trunk and the limbs. This is preceded by irritability and depressive mood changes. Speech problems and impairment of intellectual functions may also be noted in some individuals. The condition is progressive and may lead to severe impairment of movement of the limb muscles and communication abilities.

Detailed history including family history and clinical evaluation usually leads to the detection of this disease. In case of any doubt, genetic testing may also be considered.

Causes and prevention of Huntington’s disease

Huntington’s disease is a genetic disease which is autosomal dominant in nature. This means that a defective gene in only one of the parents is enough to cause the disease in the child. It results from degeneration of the brain cells of a part of the brain called the basal ganglia which is responsible for regulating voluntary and involuntary movements of the body.

Huntington’s disease: Complications

Huntington’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder wherein the affected individual may eventually lose his/her communication abilities and become incapable of moving the muscles. Not only this, the affected individual may have dementia in the future.

Huntington’s disease: Treatment

Huntington’s disease is an incurable disease, thus its treatment aims towards relief of the problematic symptoms. Certain medications like dopamine receptor blocker (haloperidol) may be prescribed to prevent writhing and jerking muscular movements. Consistent physiotherapy may also help in relaxing the contracted muscles. Supportive care plays an important role in managing the individual’s condition especially if he/she has become wheelchair bound. The disease is progressive and thus its prognosis is not very promising.