Huntington’s Disease is an autosomal dominant disorder, meaning that only one parent needs to carry a defective gene to pass the disease to their child. Assuming that there is one affected parent and one unaffected parent, a child would have a 50 percent chance of having Huntington’s.
If a person with a known family history of Huntington’s disease is considering having children, it is recommended that they seek the guidance of a genetic counselor. There are a few options to reduce the risk of passing the disease along, one of which being in-vitro fertilization.
Symptoms usually manifest when a patient is in their 30’s or 40’s. If the disease begins to develop before the age of 20, it might be classified as Juvenile Huntington’s. Juvenile Huntington’s comes with different symptoms, and usually progresses at a faster pace.
There are medications available to help manage symptoms, but unfortunately there is no way to entirely prevent the mental, physical and behavioral symptoms characteristic of the disease.
Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease
Symptoms often include difficulty engaging in movement and cognition, and psychiatric disorders with depression being the most common.
Movement disorders present as both involuntary movements and impairment to voluntary move. This can include involuntary jerking or writhing, as well as difficulty with muscle contracture. This often leads to problems with ambulation. Other common ailments include abnormal or slowed movement of the eyes, as well as difficulty with speech and swallowing. Impairment to voluntary movement is thought to have a more disruptive effect to a patient’s ability to retain their independence. The Patient often becomes unable to work, perform routine activities and normal communications.
Cognitive impairments are also associated with Huntington’s. Difficulty focusing on tasks is a common ailment, as well as lack of mental flexibility, or inability to break out of a cycle of behavior. Loss of impulse control is also common, and might lead to outbursts, an increase in high-risk behavior, and sexual promiscuity. The patient might also have difficulty in learning new information or being able to recall previously learned information.
There are also a host of psychiatric problems associated with Huntington’s. Depression is the most common disorder, but obsessive-compulsive disorder, mania and bipolar disorder also occur frequently. As symptoms progress, weight loss might also present in a Patient.
It is important to see your doctor if you suspect that you may have Huntington’s, especially if you have a known family history of the disease. If you notice any changes to your movements, mental abilities or emotional stability, these can be indicative of this particular ailment.
What should you do if you are diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease?
Complications from Huntington’s will worsen over time. The progression of the diseases varies from person to person, but generally from the time the disease emerges; a patient typically has between 10 and 30 years before complications lead to death. Common causes of death are infections like pneumonia, injuries caused by falls, and complications related to difficulty swallowing. Suicide is also very common. The greatest risk periods are the time before a diagnosis has been made, and the middle stages when a patient has begun to lose their independence.
Eventually, everyone with Huntington’s will need help. Loss of functionality and the ability to communicate necessitates an In-Home Caregiver. A loved one or a trained professional can perform this roll. If you or a loved one sufferer from Huntington’s Disease and requires care, contact At-Home Quality Care immediately at: (844) 275-9844.