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What is Huntington’s Disease

By August 14, 2019Chronic Disease

Huntington’s Disease is a very serious medical condition. It causes a progressive degradation of nerve cells in the patient’s brain. Unfortunately, Huntington’s has a severe impact on the patient — typically resulting in the development of significant physical and cognitive impairments. It is a medical condition that has a strong, well-documented genetic component. 

Sadly, at this time, Huntington’s Disease cannot be cured. However, with a combination of medication, physical therapy, cognitive therapy, and behavioral counseling, some of the most common symptoms of Huntington’s can be managed. For those who are dealing with this condition, home healthcare services may provide benefits. 

How Common is Huntington’s Disease?

Huntington’s Disease is a relatively rare neurodegenerative disorder. According to data provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, approximately 1 in every 20,000 people develop Huntington’s Disease. Though, as Huntington’s has a strong genetic association, it is more common in some population groups and less common in other population groups. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke notes that most people develop Huntington’s between the ages of 30 and 50. Though, in some less common cases, juveniles can develop a form of Huntington’s before the age of 20. For juveniles, the initial symptoms are sometimes different.

Huntington’s Disease: A Progressive Breakdown of Nerve Cells

An inherited medical condition, Huntington’s Disease causes brain cells (neurons) to die. Sadly, this occurs across many different areas of the brain, often at the same time. It is a progressive and degenerative condition. Medical researchers are now confident that Huntington’s is related to a genetic mutation. A child has a 50-50 chance of getting the mutation from a parent who has the Huntington’s gene. People who do not inherit the gene will not develop Huntington’s. Nor can they pass on the gene to their offspring. The adverse effects of this disorder are significant. Among other things, Huntington’s Disease can lead to:

  • The loss of control of voluntary movement;
  • Abnormal body postures and positioning;
  • Substantial emotional changes; and
  • Severe cognitive decline. 

In general, people who are dealing with Huntington’s Disease will develop slurred speech patterns, impaired body control, and, potentially, difficulty eating and swallowing. In every case, Huntington’s is a condition that requires ongoing professional medical attention and assisted living care. 

What are the Earliest Symptoms of Huntington’s

As was mentioned, Huntington’s Disease comes with a gradual onset. In some cases, the very early symptoms are not always obvious. Though, generally, the signs of Huntington’s tend to worsen in relatively quicker. With Huntington’s, early medical intervention can help you ensure that the patient is able to live the highest possible quality of life. It is important to know what signs to watch for. Some of the earliest symptoms of Huntington’s Disease include: 

  • Sudden, unexplained loss of physical or cognitive abilities;
  • Significant emotional or behavioral changes;  
  • Unusually rigid or contracted muscles;
  • Loss of fine motor skills; 
  • Tremors or other involuntary movements; and
  • Seizures. 

The Treatment Options from Huntington’s Disease

Sadly, Huntington’s Disease does not have a cure. At the current time, researchers have not been able to find a method of treatment that will stop or reverse the disorder. That being said, there are treatment options available that can help patients better deal with the day-to-day impact of living with Huntington’s Disease. 

To start, patients with Huntington’s are generally prescribed medication to help them manage the symptoms of the disease. Most people who have Huntington’s developed uncontrollable muscle movements called chorea. There are medications available that are used to treat these muscle spasms. In addition, most patients have also prescribed some form of mental health medications to help control some of the emotional and behavioral effects of the disease. 

As Huntington’s Disease causes such a severe disruption to the life of a patient, home healthcare services are often required. With the assistance of a private duty nurse or other home healthcare aide who has the experience and training to help a patient dealing with Huntington’s Disease, you or your loved one can live the best possible quality of life. 

Learn More About Free Home Health Services for Huntington’s Disease

At United Energy Workers Healthcare and Four Corners Health Care, we are compassionate, committed advocates for EEOICPA and RECA recipients. For qualified beneficiaries, free home healthcare services may be available to help a patient deal with the effects of Huntington’s Disease or other related conditions. To obtain more information about our services, please do not hesitate to contact our home healthcare professionals.