I first read about Huntington’s Disease when a 9-year-old victim of cyber-bullying died of it. That girl was Kathleen Edwards from Michigan and she was cyber-bullied by her neighbor Jennifer Petkov on Facebook, just because she had the disease. Kathleen’s mom, Laura, died of the same ailment in 2009.
What is Huntington’s Disease?
Huntington’s disease is classified as a neurodegenerative disease. The nerve cells in the brain waste away because of a genetic defect. This defect occurs when the DNA repeats many times that it should.
If the defective gene is passed down to the next generation, then the number of repeats increases and the symptoms show at a younger age. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms show from ages 30 to 40 but when it is passed down, it can occur to people younger than 20.
Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease
1. Movement problems – e.g. swallowing problems, muscle rigidity, abnormal eye movements, and involuntary jerking and contracting of muscles.
2. Cognitive problems – e.g. slowness, learning problems, decreased impulse control, conversation problems, and clumsiness.
3. Psychological problems – e.g. depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, mania, and mood disturbances like irritability, anxiety, and apathy.
Children may experience different symptoms from those in adults, such as:
1. Seizures and tremors
2. Loss of previously learned skills
3. Problems with fine-motor skills
4. Behavioral problems
Cure for Huntington Disease
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “there is no cure for Huntington’s disease” and sadly, is hereditary. If one of the parents has it, then offspring has a 50% chance of developing it. The question is just when. Only the symptoms can be managed with medication and therapies.
How to Diagnose Huntington’s Disease
Diagnosis of this disease could first be determine on outward signs, such as the development of abnormal movements or reflexes, poor speech, dementia, or a wide walk. Brain imaging tests may also be done.
According to WeMove.org, an information site for movement disorders, Huntington’s disease gets worse over time, and can lead to the inability to walk, talk and care for oneself. Complications include infection, choking, falls, heart failure and aspiration pneumonia (when foreign particles enter the lungs and cause inflammation).