2 How would Huntington’s Disease affect your life? Is it fatal? As Huntington’s Disease progresses, the ability to concentrate and make decisions becomes difficult. There is difficulty driving, keeping track of things, making decisions, answering questions, and may loose the ability to recognize familiar objects. Mental affects can include depression, irritability, and anger. Other symptoms can also greatly affect a person’s life. Huntington’s Disease is not immediately fatal, although death may occur 10 to 30 years after the signs appear. Children who develop the juvenile form of the disease rarely live to adulthood.
3 Who can have Huntington’s Disease and how could they get it? The cause of Huntington’s Disease is an inherited trait. It is inherited as a dominant trait and each child of a person with Huntington’s Disease has a 50% chance of inheriting the gene causing Huntington’s Disease. It affects males and females equally and affects all ethnic and racial groups. Huntington’s Disease typically begins in mid-life, between the ages of 30 and 50, though it may occur as early as the age of two or as late as in the late 70s. More than a quarter of a million Americans have Huntington’s Disease or are at risk of inheriting the disease from an infected parent.
4 Do you have Huntington’s Disease? Early signs of Huntington’s Disease include personality changes such as irritability, anger, depression, or a loss of interest. Decreased cognitive abilities such as difficulty making decisions, learning new information, answering questions, and remembering important information are also signs. Mild balance problems, clumsiness, and involuntary facial movements are possible signs also.Later signs of Huntington’s Disease include suddenjerky movements and involuntary movements(chorea) through your body,severe problems with balance and coordination,jerky and rapid eyemovement, hesitant or slurred speech,swallowing problems, and Dimentia.
5 How are we able to detect this disease? Are there any tests available? Blood tests can be done to determine if you have the gene for Huntington’s Disease, but they can not tell when the symptoms will begin. There are three categories of testing:Presymptomatic testing, for peopleat risk for Huntington’s Disease2. Confirmatory testing determinedwhether people showing possiblesymptoms actually have Huntington’s Disease3. Prenatal testing is used to determinewhether a fetus is a risk for Huntington’sDisease. This can be done by amniocentesisor chorionic villus sampling (CVS)
6 What are the treatments for Huntington’s Disease? There is currently no all around cure for Huntington’s Disease. There are a variety of drugs that fight the symptoms, such as tranquilizers and anti-depression drugs. Speech and physical therapies are also available.
7 What cures are being researched? Scientists are working to try to come up with new treatments to slow the course of Huntington's disease. One area of research is the combination of certain cancer and AIDS drugs. This combination has halted the progress of Huntington's in fruit flies. The use of stem cells might be another option. Transplanted in the brain, stem cells might help reduce some of the damage that's been done to the neurons in the brain. Animal studies have shown promising results, but much more research must occur. In October 2008, researchers began recruiting for a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial of a new drug currently known as ACR16. This medication stabilizes levels of dopamine, which may improve motor, cognitive and psychiatric functioning.