Huntington's Disease

By Hannah Copeland

What is it?

It's a inherited condition that affects muscle coordination and leads to mental decline and behavioral symptoms. It's also a condition in which nerve cells in the brain break down over time.

Causes and Symptoms

Huntington's disease is caused by an inherited defect in a single gene. Huntington's disease is an autosomal dominant disorder, which means that a person needs only one copy of the defective gene to develop the disorder.

Huntington's disease usually causes movement, cognitive and psychiatric disorders with a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms. Which symptoms appear first varies greatly among affected people. The earliest symptoms are problems that have to do with mood or cognition. You have many changes and disorders that have to do with the Huntington's disease like physical changes, behavioral changes, movement disorders, cognitive disorders, and psychiatric disorders.

Test and Diagnosis

A diagnosis of Huntington's disease is based primarily on your answers to questions, a general physical exam, a review of your family medical history, and neurological and psychiatric examinations. They have to ask questions and examine because there are different types of disorders they can diagnosis you with. Some testing that are available predictive genetic test, genetic counseling testing, and brain imaging test.

Treatment of the defect

No treatments can alter the course of Huntington's disease. But medications can lessen some symptoms of movement and psychiatric disorders. And multiple interventions can help a person adapt to changes in his or her abilities for a certain amount of time. Speech therapy and physical therapy are possible but there are different types of drug for different types of disorders the doctor diagnosis's you with.

Prevention of the defect

People with a known family history of Huntington's disease are concerned about whether they may pass the Huntington gene on to their children. These people may consider genetic testing and family planning options. A genetic counselor will discuss the potential risks of a positive test result, which would indicate the parent will develop the disease. Another option for couples is in vitro fertilization and preimplantation genetic diagnosis. Eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilized with the father's sperm in a laboratory.
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