Huntington's disease is a serious and incurable disorder of the brain that causes a gradual degeneration of the brain’s nerve cells thereby affecting the mental ability of the person. It is a genetic disorder that is inherited from one’s parents. If one parent has the Huntington’s gene then any children have a 50% chance of developing the disease. Most people that have this disease begin to see the signs between ages 30-50 years and it gets worse after some years. There are also teenagers and children that have this disorder. It is called Juvenile Huntington’s Disease and tends to progress faster than the normal Huntington’s disease.
Huntington’s affects the coordination and causes a gradual disorder of the brain leading to a mental declination. This disease has the ability to affect speech, emotions, mobility and cognitive abilities of the sufferer. Most sufferers experience jerking in some parts of their body, inadequate coordination and find it difficult to assimilate new information or make decisions. Although the disorder is incurable, there are certain nutritional supplements that can help control the symptoms.
Huntington’s disease can be difficult to diagnose as there are other disorders that can cause similar symptoms. A neurologist has to rule out the possibility of other disorders before confirming Huntington’s disease. It can be diagnosed by going through the genealogy of the family and a Presymptomatic test is conducted on family members who have a chance of having Huntington’s disease. However before examination, the person should be made aware of what the disorder is all about. The test requires a simple blood sample of both the affected and unaffected family members. This test has some limitations as adopted children that do not know their background might not be able to use it. Other tests that are carried out in the diagnosis of this disorder are a Head CT or MRI scan and PET (isotope) scan of the brain.
Causes of Huntington's disease
Huntington’s disease is strictly genetic and inherited from parents. It affects men and women equally. It is caused by a degeneration of the brain nerves resulting in mental disorder and emotional instability. Huntington's disease is caused when the part of the brain responsible for coordination (basal ganglia) is degenerated.
Symptoms of Huntington’s disease
Early symptoms of this disorder might not be taken serious as most sufferers do not believe that the symptoms they have are associated with Huntington’s disease. Also some families that have this disorder might be unaware that the disease runs in their family.
Some of the most common early symptoms of this disorder include:
- Some may show signs of lack of emotions or emotional instability
- Some tend to have frequent mood swings
- Depression and irritability
- Inability to control movement
During the later stage of the disorder, the symptoms become more severe. The signs associated with the later stage of this disorder include:
- The clumsiness might increase
- The person will develop difficulty in speech
- They might have trouble assimilating new information and might tend to forget other acquired skills
Researchers have proven that there is no particular cure for this disorder. However, there are certain supplements that can be taken to help control the emotional, intellectual and movement problems associated with Huntington’s disease. One nutritional supplement that is being researched and used is Creatine. Huntington’s damages brain cells by interfering with cellular energy production leading to the depletion of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which drives most of the biological processes in the body. Creatine helps to restore ATP and maintain cellular energy which may slow the progression of presymptomatic Huntington’s disease. Vitamin B3 and Vitamin E may also be very beneficial as studies have found that people suffering from Huntington’s are deficient in these two nutrients. Orthomolecular therapy looks at all the vitamins and minerals lacking in a person with Huntington’s and then supplements with those specific nutrients. Other beneficial supplements include Coenzyme Q10, Omega 3, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid and Zinc.
It is important to seek medical advice for Huntington’s disease as a neurologist, psychiatrist and psychologist may be needed from time to time.
However, the family members, friends and relatives of the person will have a big role to play in helping the person live a better life.
The sufferer of Huntington’s disease might have issues with talking or understanding complex words. It is advisable to continue to talk to the person and make the environment as normal as possible. Psychotherapy might also be of great help.
Also the person with Huntington’s disease should be advised to exercise on a regular basis. Researches have proven that those that exercise regularly seem to live a better life than those that do not exercise.
Patience, love and support can help the person suffering Huntington’s disease have a more normal and comfortable life. As the condition deteriorates the need for family and friends increases greatly and can put a lot of pressure on those caregivers so it is important to spread the workload among many people. It is also important for caregivers to take care of their own health as well by eating healthy, getting exercise and using nutritional supplements to help with stress.
Huntington’s disease may be a fatal disorder but when discovered early it can be controlled. With proper supplementation, a good diet, love, support and patience Huntington’s disease can be delayed and controlled.