Huntington’s disease is a rare genetic disorder that impacts the brain. It is caused by a defective gene, and the defect is typically passed along through the family as a hereditary disorder.
Individuals with Huntington’s disease often develop the symptoms in their middle ages. They may begin life with normal mental functions but then begin to show the symptoms of the disease between the ages of 30 and 50. However, the symptoms of Huntington’s disease have also been seen in patients as young as two and as old as 80.
Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease
When Huntington’s disease begins to exhibit symptoms, the telltale signs are unpredictable and uncontrolled muscle movements. This impacts the legs, arms, upper body, head and face. This is accompanied by other mental symptoms, as well, including problems with thinking and reasoning, memory, judgment and concentration. Individuals with Huntington’s disease often have related problems that impact their mood, including anxiety, irritability, anger and even depression.
Huntington’s disease is a difficult diagnosis both for the individual and loved ones. As the disease progresses, it will pass through an “early stage,” “middle stage” and “late stage” that include gradually worsening symptoms. As the disease worsens over time and reaches “late stage,” it has often evolved to the point where the individual becomes completely dependent on others and eventually dies from complications of the disease.
Though it cannot be cured, there are a number of medications that are recommended to help with the different symptoms of the disease. The three areas that health care providers often try to treat with medications are the involuntary movements, irritability and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Related problems such as anxiety or depression should also be treated to help the individual live the best life possible with Huntington’s disease.
SOURCES: Alzheimer’s Association; Huntington’s Disease Society of America.
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