According to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, more than a quarter of a million Americans have Huntington’s Disease (HD) or are “at risk” of inheriting the disease from an affected parent.
HD is a hereditary degenerative brain disorder that slowly reduces the affected individual’s ability to walk, think, talk, and reason.
Huntington’s Disease: Symptoms
Early symptoms of HD include:
- Mood swings
- Involuntary twitching
- Lack of coordination
As the disease progresses, concentration and short-term memory diminish and involuntary movements of the head, trunk and limbs increase. Reflexes may be abnormal. The gait is often “prancing” and wide. Speech may be hesitant or enunciation poor. Eventually, walking, speaking and swallowing abilities deteriorate.
Huntington’s Disease: Diagnosis
In addition to conducting a physical examination and a thorough review of the patient’s personal and family medical history, there are a series of tests your doctor can request to obtain a definitive diagnosis of Huntington’s disease.
Since HD is a hereditary disorder, DNA analysis of blood can reveal whether the distinct mutation for Huntington’s disease exists in gene IT-15.
A computed tomography (CT) scan of the head may show atrophy of brain tissue and enlargement of brain ventricles. This painless diagnostic procedure produces computer-generated images of the brain’s internal structures. An MRI scan of the head and a PET (isotope) scan of the brain may also reveal traces of Huntington’s disease.
Huntington’s Disease: Treatment
Currently there is no cure for Huntington’s disease, and there is no known way to stop progression of the disorder. The goal of treatment is to minimize complications associated with disease progression and improve the patient’s overall quality of life.
At NeuroHealth, we employ an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to treatment of the HD patient. Our approach includes:
- Medical management of symptoms
- Physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy
- Psychological support
- Genetic counseling
Medications for HD vary depending on the symptoms.
In 2008, the FDA approved Tetrabenazine (Xenazine) for the treatment of chorea in Huntington’s Disease. Chorea refers to the involuntary movements that occur in this disease.
Huntington’s Disease: Resources
Huntington’s Disease Society of America
505 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
Phone:212-242-1968 1-800-345-HDSA (4372)
Fax: (212) 239-3430
New England HDSA Regional Office
MGH East Bldg. 114, Suite 201
114 16th Street
Charlestown, MA 02129
Huntington Study Group
University of Rochester, HSG Administrative Office
1351 Mt. Hope Avenue, Suite 223
Rochester, New York 14620
Tel: 585-275-1642 or 800-487-7671
WE MOVE (Worldwide Education & Awareness for Movement Disorders)
204 West 84th Street
New York, NY 10024