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What is Huntington’s Disease?
Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a genetically passed down, brain disease. This illness is the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It is classified as a neurodegenerative disorder. This means that the cells in the central nervous system begin to deteriorate. Because the cells break down, Huntington’s Disease affects individuals physically and mentally.
The only way to contract Huntington’s Disease is through genetics. This illness is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. If a parent carries a copy of the gene, the risk of the child being affected is 50/50. The symptoms typically do not show up until the person is between 30 and 40. There are some cases of people under 20 showing symptoms, this is known as Juvenile Huntington’s Disease (JUD). Most patients typically pass away within 10-20 years after they start showing symptoms.
Similar to Mesothelioma, this disease is extremely rare. According to the National Organization for Rare Diseases, only about 30,0000 people in the United States have Huntington’s disease. Because it is a genetic disease, there are about 200,000 people at risk of developing Huntington’s disease.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease?
There are early signs and symptoms of Huntington’s Disease that show up before it starts to affect larger areas of a person’s life. For example, patients with this illness can show signs of clumsiness, a lack of coordination, uncontrollable movements, or stumbling. According to Mayo Clinic, other early signs of the disease include emotional changes, lack of concentration, short-term memory loss, depression, and irritability.
Once the patient starts showing signs of the disease, the symptoms will continually get worse over time. The symptoms will affect the person’s life both physically and mentally.
Those that live with Huntington’s Disease will begin to exhibit progressively worse symptoms. Symptoms can include a lack of impulse control, such as acting out and disregarding those around them. They can also struggle to focus on various tasks; they may appear to move slower and without awareness of themselves. After Huntington’s Disease has set in, they may have difficulty learning new things.
People with Huntington’s Disease may lose control of their muscles. This involuntary movement is also known as Chorea. Other muscle problems can include rigidity. Patients may have a hard time speaking and swallowing as well. People also typically experience bad posture and a loss of balance. As the disease progresses, those with Huntington’s Disease will eventually require full-time care and help carrying out daily tasks such as eating and bathing.
How is Huntington’s Disease Treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment for Huntington’s Disease. While the disease can not be treated, doctors can treat the symptoms. Many doctors will treat the common symptoms: chorea, emotional changes, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some medications can help reduce the involuntary movements caused by Chorea. For major emotional changes and Obsessive Compulsive tendencies, antidepressants and other medications can ease a patient’s mind. While there is no cure, there are many helpful resources for patients and families of those that live with Huntington’s Disease.