By: Trevor McConnell
What Is It?
Huntington's Disease is a progressive neurologic, inherited disease that breaks down nerve cells in certain parts of the brain.
What is Huntington's Disease?
Body Systems Affected
Huntington's Disease affects the parts of the brain called the Basal Ganglia, Striatum, Caudate Nucleus, and the Putamen. It also affects the Central Nervous System. Without Huntington's Disease your brain controls your movements and functions. If you have Huntington's Disease the break down of brain cells in the Basal Ganglia causes uncontrollable movements and mental deterioration. Without Huntington's Disease the Nervous System sends messages back and forth from the brain to other parts of the body. If you have Huntington's Disease it causes a disruption in the Central Nervous System.
Males and females can both get Huntington's Disease. Symptoms usually show up between the ages of 30-50, sometimes earlier. There is also something called Juvenile Huntington's Disease which is when symptoms show up before you turn 20 years old. 6% of people who have Huntington's Disease have Juvenile Huntington's Disease. It affects 1 out of 10,000 people in western countries. 30,000 people are affected by Huntington's Disease in the United States. 3-7 people out of 100,000 people of European Ancestry have Huntington's Disease. Chinese, Japanese, and African descent are less common to get this disease.
Huntington's Disease is a Genetic disease that is passed on from parent to child. If you have it your kids have a 50% chance of getting Huntington's Disease. If your parents don't pass it down to you then your kids can't have it. In very rare cases a person can get Huntington's Disease even if their parents don't have it.
A doctor can test for it genetically by looking at your family history and noticing if you have any symptoms. Most people choose not to get tested for it because at this point there is no way to slow the disease once the symptoms begin. A doctor can do a physical exam. They look for signs of the disease like Dementia, abnormal movements, abnormal reflexes, prancing and wide walk, hesitant speech and poor pronunciation. They can also take CT scans, MRI's, and PET scans of the brain. They can also do physiological testing.
Signs and Symptoms
Some mental symptoms of Huntington's disease are dementia, short attention span and memory loss, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, aggressive behavior, disorganized thoughts, apathy, hard to understand what is being said, hallucinations, paranoia, and irritability. People can also experience speech problems like slurred speech and difficulty starting a conversation. There are also symptoms that can occur like twitches and muscle spasms. When the disease is at it worst you wont be able to walk, talk and will have difficulty swallowing.
There is no cure for this disease. All the treatments that have been used are to help with symptoms. Some people believe that living healthy will help with the symptoms. Speech therapy and physical therapy can help. Occupational therapy helps keep everyday skills that you will need. There are support groups. There are also medicines that can help slow symptoms.
Most people who have Huntington's disease will die within 10-20 year after symptoms start. Quality of life decreases as the disease progresses. You will die from this disease no matter what. The disease progresses and gets worst.
I decided to do this disease because my aunt has this disease and I wanted to learn more about it. There was also someone famous with this disease his name is Woodie Guthrie he sang the song "This Land Is Your Land."