Changes in behavior and memory are some of the common Huntington’s disease symptoms. In this article you will find causes, symptoms, and treatment of Huntington’s disease.
Huntington’s disease, also known as the Huntington’s chorea or HD, is a degenerative disease which progresses slowly over a long duration of time. It is a hereditary or inherited disease present at the time of birth. As the disease progresses, the nerve cells in the brain get wasted which leads to abnormal and involuntary movements. The symptoms of this disease appear very slowly and are usually seen in middle age. The symptoms worsen over a period of 15-20 years and lead to death. Although present during birth, the signs and symptoms do not surface until middle age. In extremely rare cases, Juvenile Huntington’s disease is observed in people below 20 years of age. Let us take a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment methods of this condition.
What Causes Huntington’s Disease?
Huntington’s disease is a degenerative genetic disorder which is caused due to a genetic disorder on the 4th chromosome. The exact cause of this genetic disorder is unknown. As mentioned above, it is a hereditary or inherited disease, i.e., the child acquires it at birth from the parent. Unfortunately, as the symptoms appear in the middle age, parents are unaware that they suffer from this disorder, and hence, the disease has already been transmitted to the child. If a single parent suffers from this disease, there are 50% chances of the child suffering from it. The chances increase if both the parents suffer from Huntington’s disease. However, this is extremely rare.
What are Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease?
Abnormal and involuntary movement of the body is the most common symptom of the Huntington’s disease. People suffering from this disease experience sudden jerky movements of the limbs; experience involuntary facial movements, etc. Following is a list of some of the other symptoms observed in this disease:
- Unsteady gait
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Memory loss
- Lack of mental balance
- Loss of judgment
- Changes in personality
- Spasmodic movements of the body (chorea)
- Coordination problems
- Rapid eye movements
- Slurred speech
- Mood changes
Chorea or the lack of coordination in movement leads to depression and weight loss in people. They do not eat and drink properly and at proper times which can lead to further fatigue and weakness. Similarly, the fact that they are suffering from a degenerative disease leads to irritability and mood swings. Loss of memory and inability to concentrate, judge, etc. can also cause frustration. As the symptoms worsen, the person suffering from this disorder becomes anti-social and lonely. Children suffering from juvenile Huntington’s disease also appear irritable, depressed or aggressive. They also suffer from stiff muscles and may even indulge in improper sexual behavior.
How is Huntington’s Disease Treated?
Many times, Huntington’s disease is confused with the Parkinson’s disease, as symptoms like muscle rigidity and tremors are observed in both these diseases. It is essential to consult the doctor immediately if any physical, behavioral or emotional changes are observed without any known cause. Blood tests can prove the presence of a faulty gene even before the onset of symptoms. Although there is no cure for the disease, there are several treatment methods to reduce the severity of the symptoms. For e.g., medications help in controlling movement; tranquilizers help in treating depression and hallucinations. At the same time, therapies can be used to treat memory loss and speech impediments. According to the Huntington disease facts, the symptoms worsen very slowly and death occurs after 10-15 years on the onset of the symptoms.
As it is a genetic disorder, it cannot be prevented. However, couples should undertake blood tests and avoid begetting children if any genetic abnormality is found. If a family member or close one is suffering from Huntington’s disease, one should care and support him to cope up with the disease. Take care!