Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder characterized by progressive degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain. The symptoms of the disease usually develop in the middle age. In a smaller number of people, the ailment develops at a later age or in the childhood.
The disease manifests through movement disorders, cognitive impairment, depression and other psychiatric disorders.Huntington’s disease is incurable. Treatments help to manage the symptoms of the disease to enable a patient to adapt to the physical changes.
Treatment Options For Huntington’s Disease
Treatment For Movement Problems
The involuntary jerking movement in Huntington’s disease patients can be lessened with tetrabenazine and antipsychotic drugs. However, intake of these drugs can cause serious side effects. Tetrabenazine might worsen depression and the psychiatric symptoms of the ailment. It is also linked to restlessness, drowsiness, insomnia and nausea.
The antipsychotic drugs, although safe for the mental health of the patient, can increase muscle rigidity and aggravate involuntary muscle contraction. These medications are complemented with physical and
A physical therapist teaches the Huntington’s disease patients to perform simple exercises that improve muscle strength, enhance flexibility and increase mobility. By improving muscle coordination and balance, exercises protect a Huntington’s disease patient from falls.
Treatment For Psychiatric Problems
The psychiatric symptoms of Huntington’s disease are treated with antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs and mood-stabilizing drugs. Prolonged consumption of these drugs may stimulate gastrointestinal problems and increase tremor.
Usually medications are combined with psychotherapy to enable a patient to cope with the psychiatric disorders developing from break down of the nerve cells in the brain. A psychotherapist helps the patient to manage behavioral problems by improving communication with family and the caregiver.
People suffering from Huntington’s disease are unable to control the muscles of the throat and the mouth. This severely impairs their ability to speak, eat and swallow. A speech-language pathologist evaluates the severity of the swallowing and speech problems of a patient.
The therapist assists in developing strategies that can improve communication. The speech-language pathologist also recommends various feeding techniques and changes in the consistency of the diet to ease swallowing.
There has not been extensive research on the effectiveness of plant products in treating Huntington’s disease. Among the different plant compounds that researchers have studied, fisetin has shown some promise in slowing down the motor disorders in Huntington’s disease process.
Fisetin occurs naturally in strawberry. The plant compound is blessed with neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent degeneration of the neurons. Researchers believe that fisetin is effective only at the earliest stage of the ailment, before the symptoms appear.
Difficulty in eating and swallowing causes calorie deficiency in people with Huntington’s disease. To enable a diseased person to meet the recommended calorie requirement, a Huntington’s disease patient should be given small meals several times a day. Select foods that are easy to chew and swallow.
Avoid hard foods such as nuts and foods that tend to break into separate sections while chewing such as raw tomatoes or bacons. Protein shakes, custards, gravies and sauces are usually suitable for Huntington’s disease patients. Using utensils specially designed for people with movement disorders reduce the risk of choking.