This is an inherited disease which is causing progressive breakdown (also known as degeneration) of the nerve cells in the brain. It is known fact that it has a broad impact on a person’s functional abilities and usually it is resulting in psychiatric, thinking (cognitive) and movement disorders. Most people who suffer from Huntington’s disease develop signs and symptoms in their 30s and 40s but also this disease can emerge earlier or later in life.
When this disease happens before age 20, then it is known as a juvenile Huntington’s disease. It is noticed that the earlier emergence of Huntington’s disease is often resulting in a somewhat different set of symptoms and faster disease progression. There are some medications which can help to manage the symptoms of Huntington’s disease but treatments cannot prevent the behavioral, mental and physical decline that are associated with this condition.
Huntington’s disease symptoms
Usually, It is causing psychiatric, cognitive and movement disorders with a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms. It varies greatly from one person to another for which symptoms appear first. During the course of Huntington’s disease, some disorders are more dominant or they have a greater effect on the functional ability.
- Movement disorders: The movement disorders which are associated with the it can include both impairments in voluntary movements and involuntary movement problems, such as:
- You can have difficulties with the physical production of speech or swallowing
- Impaired gait, posture and balance
- Slow or abnormal eye movements
- There can be muscle problems, such as rigidity or muscle contracture (dystonia)
- Involuntary jerking or writhing movements (chorea)
The impairments in the voluntary movements are more common than in involuntary movements can have a greater impact on the ability of affected person to work, remain independent, communicate and perform daily activities.
- Cognitive disorders: Here are cognitive impairments which are associated with Huntington’s disease:
- Difficulty in learning new information
- Slowness in processing thoughts or “finding” words
- There can be a lack of awareness of one’s own behaviors and abilities
- You can have a lack of impulse control that can result in outbursts, acting without thinking and sexual promiscuity
- Ability to have a lack of flexibility or the tendency to get stuck on a thought, behavior, or action (perseveration)
- Difficulty organizing, prioritizing or focusing on tasks
- Psychiatric disorders: Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder associated with Huntington’s disease. This is not simply a reaction to receive a diagnosis of Huntington’s disease. Depression is happening because of injury to the brain and subsequent changes in brain functions. Here are signs and symptoms of Huntington’s disease:
- Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Social withdrawal
- Feelings of irritability, sadness or apathy
Also, there are other common psychiatric disorders, such as
- Bipolar disorder: This a condition in which the episodes of mania and depression are alternating.
- Mania: It can cause inflated self – esteem, impulsive behavior, over-activity and elevated mood.
- Obsessive – compulsive disorder: This is a condition which is marked by repetitive behaviors, intrusive thoughts and recurrent thoughts.
Huntington’s disease causes
This disease is caused by an inherited defect in a single gene. It is an autosomal dominant disorder which means that a person needs only one copy of the defective gene to develop Huntington’s disease. Parent who has a defective gene can pass it along with the defective copy of gene or the healthy copy. Each child in the family has 50% that he or she will inherit the genetic disorder.
When it has started, then the person’s abilities are gradually worsening as the time passes. The duration and progression rate of Huntington’s disease varies. Usually, the death caused by Huntington’s disease is about ten to thirty years. The death caused by the juvenile Huntington’s disease is resulting in a period of ten years after symptoms develop. The clinical depression which is associated with Huntington’s disease can increase the risk for suicide. There are some studies in which are said that the greater risk of suicide happens before the diagnosis is made and in the middle stages of the Huntington’s disease when the person has begun to lose independence.