Huntington’s disease treatment

Huntington’s disease is a fatal hereditary disease that destroys neurons in areas of the brain involved in movement, intelligence, and emotions. Huntington’s is characterized by jerky uncontrollable movement of the limbs, trunk, and face; loss of mental abilities; and the increased psychiatric problems. Huntington’s disease generally appears in the age group of 30-50 years, but can develop earlier or later as well. The gravity of this disease increases without any improvements over 10 to 25 years and patients ultimately are unable to care for themselves.

This disease is passed on to children by their parents due to mutation or metamorphosis of sorts in the gene structure. So, genetic testing is established as the most decisive way of finding out if someone is suffering from Huntington’s disease. Unified Huntington’s Disease Rating Scale is used for thorough medical examination followed by extensive patient family history analysis can confirm the presence of Huntington’s disease.

There is currently no medication to cure the disease or slow down its progression. Huntington’s disease treatment is limited to slowing the succession of symptoms so that the patient can function adequately for as long as possible. Medications to control the physical symptoms as well as the mood swings that are key characteristics of the disease are one of the ways of helping the diseased in gaining control over their lives. Treatment depends on the symptoms that the patient exhibits. Medications are prescribed to alleviate some of the symptoms and bring relief to the patients. Antipsychotic drugs, such as haloperidol, or other drugs such as clonazepam help to alleviate facial movements and are also used to help control hallucinations, violent outbursts delusions and aggressive actions.

Most drugs treat the symptoms of Huntington’s disease such as fatigue, restlessness, or hyper excitability. Sometimes it becomes difficult to tell if a particular symptom, such as indifference or incontinence is a sign of the disease itself or is a reaction to the medication and ongoing treatment. These medications may also have severe side effects, so all medications and its effects should be well documented and observed. For depression, physicians may prescribe fluoxetine, sertraline, nortriptyline, or other compounds. Tranquilizers can help control anxiety and lithium can be prescribed to combat pathological excitement and severe mood swings. Medications are also needed to treat the severe obsessive-compulsive rituals of some individuals with HD.

An important aspect of treatment for Huntington’s disease is to address lifestyle and care issues to help people with the disorder deal with the condition. Such treatment includes: speech therapy, regular physical activity, assistance with feeding-related issues and the suchlike. Huntington disease affects metabolism and results in the burning of calories at a much higher rate than average in a diseased person’s body. So it’s important to keep the person on a high calorie diet. Also the ability to communicate declines through the disease, and a speech therapist can be very useful to keep the morale of the patient high. It’s important for caregivers and family members to remember this.

Huntington’s disease treatment regimen should also include nutritional support, regular exercise and social activity. It requires support of family because it becomes difficult for patients to eat and swallow, walk without falling, and participate in social activities outside of the home. All of these activities require emotional support from the family and friends of the patient. Family and friends of a person suffering from Huntington’s disease are at an increased risk of poor health, depression and isolation due to the depressing gradual degradation in physical and mental health of the patient which can have adverse psychological effects on the family as well.

This disease can be devastating to everyone surrounding the actual patient and it is a good idea for family members to find a support group or build some sort of support network. Because the disease can take such a long time to progress, it can be extremely wearing on caregivers.

Last updated on Oct 24th, 2010 and filed under Neurological Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed