Huntington's Disease is an inherited
degenerative neuropsychiatric disorder which affects both body and mind.
Symptoms most commonly begin between the ages of 35 and 50, although onset may
occur any time from childhood to old age.
The clinical features of Huntington's disease can be thought of as a triad of
emotional, cognitive and motor disturbances.
Symptoms include chorea (dance-like involuntary movements), clumsiness, slurred
speech, depression, irritability and apathy.
Cognitive losses include intellectual speed, attention and short-term memory.
Huntington's disease affects people in different ways. One member of a family
may have more trouble with clumsiness while another may have emotional
outbursts. Moreover, symptoms of Huntington's disease in the same individual
change over time.
There is currently a lot of research interest
in this inherited disease and we learn more about it all the time.
But, as yet, there have been relatively few spin-offs into the daily lives of
sufferers and their families,
most of whom only know the disease as it affects their own relatives/friends.
Access to support and advice at the right time can minimize these difficulties
and reduce the anxiety and stress which often result.
Physicians prescribe a number of
medications to help control emotional and movement problems associated with HD.
In August 2008 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved tetrabenazine to
treat Huntington’s chorea (the involuntary writhing movements), making it the
first drug approved for use in the United States to treat the disease.
Most drugs used to treat the symptoms of HD have side effects such as fatigue,
restlessness, or hyperexcitability. It is extremely important for people with HD
to maintain physical fitness as much as possible, as individuals who exercise
and keep active tend to do better than those who do not.
At this time, there is no way to stop or reverse the course
of HD. Now that the HD gene has been located, investigators are continuing to
study the HD gene with an eye toward understanding how it causes disease in the
Huntington's Disease Society of