Huntington's Disease

By: Lexie Knox pd. 9

First Discovered

Huntington's Disease was first discovered in 1870's by George Huntington (pictured below). He wrote a paper called On Chorea, and it later became known as Huntington's Chorea or Huntington's Disease. Almost a hundred years later, the famous Woody Guthrie was diagnosed with the disease. He was sick in the 1950's and died in 1967. He was one of the first people to start to raise awareness for it along with his wife who continued to do so even after his death.
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Background

Huntington's Disease is a genetic disorder in the brain that breaks down the nerve cells and destroys physical and mental abilities. The disease occurs in chromosome 4, and is a single gene mutation. It's common with people within the ages of 30-50, and unfortunately only gets worse once diagnosed as the life expectancy after diagnosis is from 10-30 years.
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The Basal Ganglia (a part in the middle of the brain) is mostly affected as shown above.

How do you get it?

If your parent has Huntington's Disease, there is a 50/50 you will inherit it. The good news is that if you are not diagnosed, your child will not receive the disease either. Unfortunately, around 30,000 Americans still have it. There is a 50% chance the children will get it, and that their children might get it, and so on.
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The key shows what will happen if a parent has Huntington's Disease. From there, the children could possibly get it, and their children, and so on.

Symptoms

There are many symptoms following the diagnosis of Huntington's Disease. They include amnesia, memory loss, confusion, lack of concentration, muscle spasm, muscle loss, trouble talking and swallowing, unable to walk, fidgeting, anxiety, weight loss, mood swings, paranoia, depression, hallucinations, and more.
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Above are some of the symptoms in all three stages following diagnosis.

Tests

If your parents had Huntington's Disease and you want to see if you have it, there are ways to tell whether or not you carry the gene. It is prohibited before the age of 18, but you can see after 18 whether or not you have it. If you have the disease and are also having a child, you can get a pre-genetic test done. The only downside is that you can't tell how severe the symptoms will be and you can't stop it.
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Cure

Although there is no cure, there are drugs that help such as tetrabenazine, antipsychotic drugs to help with hallucinations and violent outburst, as well as tranquilizers for anxiety. There are also many organizations that raise money for the disease, such as The International Huntington Association, and Huntington's Disease Society of America which has fundraisers including Team Hope walks, celebration of Hope, golf fundraisers, and many more. Scientists have come very far in their research, but a cure has not yet been found.