Huntington’s disease – causes, side effects and treatments at NaturalPedia.com

Friday, April 20, 2018 by

Huntington’s disease (HD) is a debilitating condition that lays waste to nerve cells in the brain called neurons. It is caused by a defective gene that a person inherits from his parents, and it may lie dormant until the initial onset much later in life. During the onset of HD, a person may exhibit uncontrolled movement, increased clumsiness, and problems with balance. As HD progresses in a person, it may rob him of the ability to walk, talk, and even swallow. In some cases, the condition affects memory, and the person stops recognizing family members; however, some people retain lucidity and are aware of their environment and can express emotions.

Heredity plays a significant role in the transmission of the disease. A person who has a parent with the condition is 50 percent more likely to have the condition as well.

The disease is classified into three stages. Early-stage HD includes subtle changes in coordination, as well as irritability and depression. This impairs their ability to function well both at work and at home. Middle-stage HD, on the other hand, signals the start of problematic movement disorders. During this stage, voluntary movement becomes compromised and changes in reasoning and thinking will appear. As the condition progresses, speech and swallowing will be affected as well. Late-stage HD renders a person totally depended on others for care, as he may no longer be responsive or able to move. Death from HD is not caused by the disease itself, but from complications from it.

In the U.S., at least 30,000 people have HD.

Known risk factors and symptoms of Huntington’s disease

HD is caused by a defective gene (mhTT) which produces a toxic form of the protein huntingtin. Under normal circumstances, huntingtin isn’t toxic when the gene produces them.

This toxic form of huntingtin accumulates in the brain, damaging its cells in the process. When it comes in contact with certain receptors, especially those related to movement, thinking, and memory, huntingtin renders them useless and eventually destroys them.

The condition is an autosomal dominant, that is, only one copy of the faulty gene is required for it to be passed from parent to child. When this happens, the child has a 50 percent likelihood of inheriting the condition. If a person does not get the gene, he will not develop HD and cannot pass it onto his children.

In some cases, HD can develop during adolescence in a condition called juvenile HD.

The symptoms of HD, however, are far-reaching: It primarily affects areas of the brain that are responsible for movement, cognition, and emotions.

Symptoms of HD-related cognitive disorders include the following.

  • Having a difficult time organizing or focusing on tasks
  • A tendency to get stuck on a thought, behavior, or action
  • Lacking in impulse control resulting in outbursts and acting without thinking
  • Loss of awareness regarding his own behavior and ability
  • Difficulty in processing thoughts and learning new information

Movement disorders that are related to HD include the following.

  • Chorea or involuntary jerking and movement
  • Dystonia, a disorder in muscle rigidity and form
  • Slowed or abnormal eye movements
  • Unnatural gait, posture, and balance
  • A difficulty in using muscles related to speech and swallowing

The most common emotional or psychiatric disorder for HD is depression. However, this is not a reaction to the disease, but a result of injuries sustained in the brain that have altered its function.

Body systems affected by Huntington’s disease

As HD progresses, the person becomes prone to complications as a result of the condition. These include the following.

  • Significant memory loss and reduction in brain function. In later stages of the disease, the person becomes unable to take care of themselves, leading to diminished mental and emotional well-being.
  • Spontaneous incontinence and loss of inhibition.
  • Complete loss of personality. This causes extreme cases of insanity, irrationality, anxiety, delirium, and pervasive thoughts of suicide.
  • Susceptibility to opportunistic infections. These may include cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and organ failure, to name a few.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent or relieve Huntington’s disease

While the condition is genetic and cannot be treated or prevented, there are some food items a person with HD could take to alleviate some symptoms.

  • Green tea can reduce the impacts of HD by calming it down.
  • Vitamin E can be used to improve neurological connections and possibly slow the progression of the disease.
  • Coenzyme Q-10, surprisingly, can improve the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys, which are commonly targeted by HD.

Treatment and management options for Huntington’s disease

Currently, no cure exists for HD. In conventional medicine, the treatment is done to alleviate existing symptoms such as depression, muscle movement, speech problems, and balance.

Where to learn more

Summary

Huntington’s disease is a debilitating condition that lays waste to nerve cells in the brain. During the onset of HD, a person may exhibit uncontrolled movement, increased clumsiness, and problems with balance. As it progresses in a person, it may rob him of the ability to walk, talk, and even swallow. In some cases, the condition affects memory, and the person stops recognizing family members; however, some people retain lucidity and are aware of their environment and can express emotions.

Heredity plays a significant role in the transmission of the disease. A person who has a parent with the condition is 50 percent more likely to have the condition as well.

Currently, no cure exists for HD.

Sources include:

MedLinePlus.gov

HDSA.org

MedicalNewsToday.com

MayoClinic.org

DoveMed.com

OrganicFacts.net

NHS.uk



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