This defect causes part of the DNA, called a CAG, to repeat more than normal. The typical repeat rate is 10 to 35 times, but to the person with Huntington’s it jumps to 36 to 120 times. As it goes through each generation, this CAG repeat usually gets larger. The more often the numbers repeat, the greater the chances become of getting this disease at a younger age. Therefore, if a person’s parents have Huntington’s disease your chances of getting this passed down gene is 50%. Whomever this gene passes on to will develop the disease at some point in life.
Two Forms of Huntington’s Disease
According to the New York Times Health Guide there are two forms of Huntington’s disease . The one that is passed down, determines when the person will get this disease. Adult-onset form of Huntington’s disease is the most common form. It will show its symptoms in the person’s mid 30s to 40. The other form is Early-onset and just as it states, symptoms begin in the person’s childhood, or adolescence.
In reading through the symptoms, it is reminiscent of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Huntington’s is a form of dementia, which is also a form of Alzheimer’s.
The body has abnormal and unusual movements. These can include, slow uncontrolled movements or quick sudden jerking movements of the body parts. It can be the arms, legs, face. The head may turn to shift eye position. Their gait may be unsteady.
Another symptom is changes in behavior. They may be antisocial, irritable, moody restless, or fidgeting. It can include hallucinations, paranoia, and psychosis.
Dementia that gets slowly worse. Loss of memory or their judgment becomes impaired. They may be disoriented or confused, or they may show changes in speech and personality.
Additional symptoms may include anxiety, stress and tension. Huntington’s may affect their speech or ability to swallow.
Symptoms that are apparent in children are rigidity, slow movements, and tremors.
During a physical exam, the doctor will look for signs of dementia, or abnormalities in their movements, or reflexes. If their gait is, “prancing” and wide or their speech is hesitant or they cannot pronounce their words clearly.
The doctor may also choose to do a CT or MRI of the head to see if there is damage. A PET scan of the brain and DNA marker studies to determine if you are a carrier of Huntington’s
Although to date, there is no known cure for Huntington’s, there is medication that may slow it down.
Dopamine blockers may help with abnormal behavior and movements. Tetrabenazine and amantadine are prescribed to control extra movements. According to an article from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke , October 14, 2002, evidence shows that taking the vitamin co-enzyme Q10 may help in slowing down this disease.
If having Huntington’s was not bad enough, there are two other problems associated with this disease. Depression and suicide are common. People diagnosed with Huntington’s mostly die from infection, and suicide.
The only way for this gene to survive is through the family. Researchers are making advances toward finding out more about Huntington’s and researchers have discovered that the Rhes protein is the cause of Huntington’s. This protein attacks cells, especially the mutant ones and once it gets into the straiten part of the brain, that is when these symptoms will show.