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Huntington's Disease: Symptoms and Treatment

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Treatment continued...

Medications can help control fidgety movements. Your doctor can work closely with you to manage any side effects and to change medications, if needed.

Speech or language therapy may be helpful for any problems with speech or swallowing.

Occupational or physicaltherapy may help you learn how to better control movements. And assistive devices such as handrails can help you manage your changing physical abilities.

Nutritional support ranges from using special utensils to focusing on nutrient-dense foods to supplementing with tube feeding in later stages.

Exercise may be very helpful. People with Huntington's who stay as fit and active as they can seem to do better than those who do not.                  

Just as important is getting support for any changes in your emotions and how you think. Depression often responds well to standard treatments. And basic strategies like breaking tasks into simpler steps may go a long way toward making these changes a bit easier for you and your family.

Causes

In 1993, researchers found the gene that causes Huntington's. Everyone has the HD gene, but in some families an abnormal copy of the gene gets passed from parent to child. If you have a parent with Huntington's disease, you have a 50% chance of having the gene and developing the disease.

Also:

  • Men and women are equally likely to inherit the abnormal gene.
  • If you don't have the abnormal gene, you can't get Huntington's or pass it on to your children.
  • The disease doesn't skip generations.

If you or members of your family plan to be tested for Huntington's, it's a good idea to get professional genetic counseling first. Counselors can help explain what to expect from the test results.

With knowledge about the HD gene, scientists have been able to learn a great deal about how the disease affects the brain. More importantly, this discovery may help pave the way for future treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 09, 2014
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