This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
While Huntington’s Disease is quite rare, it is a serious and terminal disease. What exactly is Huntington’s Disease? It’s a neurodegenerative disease, meaning that it causes neurons in the brain to degenerate, or die, over time.
Read on to gain a better understanding of Huntington’s Disease, which currently affects more than 30,000 Americans.
What Is Huntington’s Disease?
According to the National Institute of Health, Huntington’s Disease is an inherited disorder, which means that it is passed on genetically. As stated above, Huntington’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder. Fortunately, we may be on our way to better identifying neurodegenerative disorders through technology such as AI.
Huntington’s gets its name from the protein “huntingtin.” When someone has Huntington’s, there is a mutation in the gene for this protein. Every child who has a parent with Huntington’s faces a 50% chance of inheriting the gene for Huntington’s.
Unfortunately, though, there is no current treatment that guarantees the stopping or reversal of Huntington’s. This makes it a terminal illness, meaning that it is one that patients will have for the entirety of their lives.
Huntington’s usually shows up in people who are between thirty and fifty years old, though there are some exceptions. For example, there’s an early onset form called Juvenile Huntington’s Disease that starts under the age of twenty.
While this is a difficult disease to have regardless of age, there is fortunately a lot of information and guidance out there on Huntington’s nowadays: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/huntington-disease/
Huntington’s Disease Symptoms
While there are many possible Huntington’s Disease symptoms, here are three types of common symptoms.
Since neurons are dying in the brain, this affects the central nervous system. Ultimately, this will cause mild to severe disruptions when it comes to motor skills and movement in general. Patients may experience unvoluntary jerking movements, known by the medical term of “chorea,” as well as tremors.
Patients may also face muscle contractions, unusual eye movements, impaired gait, balance, and posture, and difficulty with speech and swallowing.
Similarly, the degeneration of neurons will lead to cognitive issues as well. Those with Huntington’s Disease may find that they experience behavioral differences. They may become fixated with certain ideas or actions, and they may have focus properly prioritizing and completing tasks. There may be a general decrease in the ability to learn new information and process thoughts.
Moreover, there may be a decrease in the patient’s ability to recognize the change in their thoughts and behaviors.
Finally, psychiatric issues may occur. These can include depression, mania, irritability, insomnia, social withdrawal (introversion), fatigue, suicidal thoughts or tendencies, and apathy. Once again, this is thought to stem from the nature of Huntington’s Disease and the degeneration of neurons in the brain.
If you or someone you know has Huntington’s and is facing these issues, it is important that help is sought out. If you’re unsure where to turn, you can always start with your primary care doctor or a licensed counselor.
Ultimately, Huntington’s Disease is a rare but serious disorder. As no treatment currently exists, we have to hold out hope that continued research in biotechnology will enable a critical breakthrough.
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