Huntington's disease is an inherited degenerative brain condition caused by a faulty gene. In this disease, parts of the brain are damaged gradually. Huntington's disease causes dramatic life changes in afflicted individuals.
Unfortunately, there is currently no Huntington's disease cure. The symptoms will also get worse over time. It is inevitable. However, there are treatments for Huntington's disease that can improve a patient's quality of life. Many patients will rely on specific Huntington's disease medications to improve their symptoms. Individuals dealing with Huntington’s disease may also need a cane to help them walk, similar to canes for a knee replacement.
Chorea refers to abnormal and involuntary movements. These movements are one of the defining characteristics of Huntington's disease. They are often brief, abrupt, irregular, and unpredictable, which can further cause mental distress and anxiety in patients. Typically, patients with milder cases of Huntington's disease may appear fidgety or clumsy. However, more severe and progressive cases may exhibit extreme, wild, and even violent chorea. This symptom can affect many body parts, not just appendages. It can also interfere with speech, posture, gait, and even swallowing. Chorea typically subsides during sleep, but it can worsen throughout the day, becoming particularly active during periods of stress and anxiety. Sometimes, these movements can even involve the flinging of the body, which can induce severe injuries in patients.
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Lack Of Impulse Control
Huntington's disease is characterized by a lack of control of one's own body. In addition to physical movements, this also includes managing one's behavior. Lack of impulse control is one such factor that can present to others as irrational behavior. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls impulses and directs decision-making and rationale. However, this area is often eroded and permanently damaged in patients with Huntington's disease. Because this area is damaged, the patient may not physically be capable of managing irrational thoughts and impulses. The brain takes its own direction of thought, and the body responds accordingly.
This particular symptom may be incredibly frustrating and challenging to manage for family members and carers. However, remembering these impulses and compulsions are very real for the patient is absolutely critical. There is no treatment for this symptom, so exercising patience and care is necessary to prevent anxiety and depression from worsening.
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Experiencing speech difficulties is another common symptom of Huntington's disease. It can also greatly exasperate a patient and increase anxiety and depression. The average individual uses over one hundred muscles to create speech, and those with Huntington's disease tend to have muscular atrophy or degradation in these muscles. Because these muscles weaken or are uncontrollable, they often produce slurred or unclear speech due to the malfunction in brain signal transmission in Huntington's disease. This is referred to as dysarthria.
Apraxia is another speech and communication problem prevalent in Huntington's disease patients. It is caused by the brain's limited ability to send signals, which can affect breathing and speed and volume control when speaking. Speech and language therapy can play a crucial role in slowing down these degenerative effects on the muscles. Exercising these muscles regularly will keep them as strong as possible for a longer period.
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Fatigue And Insomnia
Many individuals with Huntington's disease have problems controlling their circadian rhythms. Managing and treating this is essential, as we all need a decent night's rest for our brain and body to function properly. Furthermore, being awake throughout the night can yield feelings of loneliness, isolation, anguish, and exile. This is on top of all the other frustrating symptoms associated with this neurodegenerative disease.
Fatigue and insomnia in Huntington's disease patients go beyond being slightly distressing and disruptive. They can also contribute significantly to the presentation of other symptoms, such as motor tics and involuntary spasms, speech and language difficulties, and the inability to control one's impulses. Furthermore, individuals with Huntington's disease may not necessarily possess the mental reserves that allow them to cope with sleep deprivation effectively.
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Dystonia is one of the more painful and frustrating symptoms of Huntington's disease. The term again refers to uncontrolled movements and, specifically, painful muscle spasms and cramps. These spasms can occur throughout the body or be centralized. Sometimes, the body may also twist and contort itself into unusual and painful positions, such as craning the neck or turning the feet inwards. The most common indicator of dystonia in Huntington's disease patients, though, is involuntary tremors. This can affect any area of the body, but it is common to see the head appear to rattle. These symptoms can be continuous or sporadic, and certain activities and stress can act as triggers. Though treatment can relieve symptoms, dystonia is a lifelong problem.