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Topic: What is Huntington’s Disease
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What is Huntington’s Disease – Symptoms, Treatments and More

Huntington’s disease is an inherited rare disease that leads to slow progressive degeneration of the nerve cells in our brain. Huntington’s disease tends to have a huge impact on an individual’s functioning abilities and usually results in psychiatric, cognitive, and movement disorders. The symptoms of this disease can start developing at any time, but mostly the symptoms start showing in the 30s or 40s. In case these symptoms start showing up in younger individuals below the age of 20, then it is known as juvenile Huntington’s disease. In younger individuals, the symptoms might show differently, and also the disease tends to progress faster.

Thankfully these days, there are several medications available in the market to help individuals manage the symptoms of this disease, but unfortunately, these medications aren’t able to manage the behavioral, mental, and physical decline that comes with Huntington’s disease. In this article, we are going to talk about the symptoms, causes, treatment, and diagnosis of Huntington’s disease.

Symptoms

As mentioned above, Huntington’s disease causes psychiatric, cognitive, and movement disorders, which include a varied spectrum of symptoms and signs. But these symptoms generally, vary from one person to another.

1. Psychiatric Disorders

The most common symptom associated with this disease is depression. Some other symptoms can include:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Always feeling exhausted and drained
  • Feeling sad and irritated
  • Insomnia
  • Frequently thinking of suicide and death
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

2. Culture-bound Syndromes

Cognitive impairments related to this disease include:

  • Finding it difficult to grasp new information
  • Being unaware of one’s abilities and behaviors
  • Getting stuck on a particular action, behavior, or thought
  • Finding it difficult to focus, prioritize or organize
  • Finding it difficult to frame words and process thoughts

3. Movement Disorders

Movement disorders can include impairments in both voluntary and involuntary movements like:

  • Abnormal and slow eye movements
  • Having difficulty talking or swallowing
  • Damaged balance, posture, and gait
  • Rigidity in the muscles or dystonia

Causes and Treatment

Huntington’s disease is considered an autosomal dominant disorder and is an inherited defect that is caused by a single gene. In the case of one of the parents having this genetic disorder, there’s a 50% chance that you are going to inherit it and also pass it on to the kids.

Now, unfortunately, this disease is incurable. Although there are medications currently available in the market, these cannot slow down or reverse the progression of this disease. These medications and some therapies like speech and physical therapy can only help in managing some of the symptoms.

Diagnosis

Doctors tend to examine the individual and ask for detailed medical and family history as well as symptoms. You will also be asked about any recent emotional upheaval or changes you have gone through. If the doctor believes at this point that you do indeed have Huntington’s disease, then you will be referred to a neurologist.

Doctors also can recommend MRI or CT scan, which will help them understand your brain structure better and rule out any other possibilities. Genetic testing is also a recommended way to confirm the diagnosis.