Seeing someone you used to know as someone who is lively and articulate look at you like he has never seen you can be very devastating for both parties. That is how bad Huntington’s disease is.
It is basically a condition that stops parts of the brain from working properly over time. It has also been identified as being passed on from a person’s parents to their offspring. This means it is hereditary. If it runs in the family, then there is a likelihood that another member or members of the next generation will have the condition.
Understanding Huntington’s Disease
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes defines Huntington’s disease (or HD) as an inherited disorder that causes nerve cells (neurons) in parts of the brain to gradually break down and die.
The condition has been seen to attack and conquer areas of the brain that help to control intentional movement (motor skills), as well as other areas. This has made people living with the condition develop an uncontrollable urge to dance or move their bodies in dance-like motions. Sometimes, when they are stable, they tend to present in what many may see as an ‘abnormal body posture’.
Most of these people living with HD may develop some problems with emotions, thinking, behavior, and personality, just like with most neurological disorders. These uncontrolled movements in the person’s fingers, feet, face, or torso area are inevitable. They may be a sign of chorea.
Researchers have noted that this chorea can get more intense during the period of the patient’s nervousness or when he/she is distracted. As the condition progresses, the patient’s condition may become more pronounced and may become more extreme and obvious.
Who Can Have Huntington’s Disease?
Anyone can have Huntington’s disease. However, neurologists have said that symptoms of the condition have been seen more explicitly in middle-aged people (that is, people in their 40s and 50s). This is also known as adult Huntington’s disease or adult HD.
HD can also be seen in children, even in newborns. This is known as juvenile Huntington’s disease or juvenile HD, although this is rare. The disease, as many have noted, gets worse over time. The longer it stays in a person’s system, the more it becomes apparent and may cause really adverse symptoms.
Signs And Symptoms Of Huntington’s Disease
Signs, especially early signs of Huntington’s disease, can vary. It may begin with simple clumsiness or problems with balance, progress to advanced movement problems, and then to cognitive issues or psychiatric symptoms, which are problems with thinking, emotion, and personality.
One who is said to be highly emotionally stable and intelligent may begin to act really differently and make people wonder what went wrong. They may begin to get angry too quickly, feel sad too quickly, and act like people battling borderline personality disorders like bipolar. All this is added to the inappropriate, dance-like movements that may not characterize the moment of display.
For some people living with Huntington’s disease, chorea can make it harder for them to walk. This increases their chances of falling or breaking down. When these falls happen more often than not, it is advised that they be strapped to a wheelchair. This would be after they have presented at the hospital for a checkup and screening.
However, chorea may not be found in some people with HD. Instead of chorea, they become rather rigid or stiff. Their bones and joints do not move anymore. If they do, they do not move like they should or how they used to.
This is what is termed akinesia, and it can be really dangerous. For some others, they start with chorea and advance into akinesia, or vice versa.
Some people living with Huntington’s disease have been seen to take up very abnormal postures for a very long time. They may not move, and it may also be a result of akinesia. Some experts have said they take these ‘unchanging’ postures known as dystonia because they feel comfortable being that way.
Other experts have said dystonia may be a blend of the two movement disorders—akinesia and chorea—as they can blend or alternate as the condition progresses.
These people living with Huntington’s disease may have a tremor—an unintentional back-and-forth movement—that occurs in the person’s muscles. They may also have unusual eye movements. The eye movements can happen early in the disease but go away or worsen as the disease progresses.
There may also be issues around physical changes, which may include slurred speech or problems with swallowing, eating, speaking, and walking, because of the movement issues. This is why some people with these conditions have saliva gushing out of their mouths.
People with Huntington’s disease may lose weight because of problems with feeding, swallowing, choking, and chest infections. They may also have trouble sleeping, incessant headaches, and energy loss as a result of fatigue and seizures. The solution to this may be that the person may be remanded in bed or in a wheelchair.
Dementia may eventually set in as people with Huntington’s disease may not be able to express themselves and their emotions. When anyone experiences these symptoms, they are advised to visit a hospital for treatment.