Huntingtons Disease Treatment

Huntington’s disease treatment is currently limited to controlling the signs and symptoms of the disease. Even with early detection through genetic testing, no cure or satisfactory treatment is available to stop or reverse Huntington’s disease today.

Huntington’s Disease Diagnosis and Genetic Testing

A doctor investigates several factors when considering a Huntington’s disease diagnosis. Family history will play a large role in the diagnosis, since Huntington’s disease is a hereditary disease. The physician may also note distinctive patterns of movements, personality changes, and reduced cognitive functions in the areas of speech, judgment and rational thinking.

Physicians can perform two tests to make a diagnosis. The doctor may order a computed tomography (CT) scan of the head to reveal any physical loss of neurons in the brain. This is a painless procedure that creates computer-generated images of the brain’s internal structures. Huntington’s patients often show shrinkage in two areas of the brain: the caudate nuclei and the putamen.

A physician may also order genetic testing by DNA analysis. This genetic testing can determine whether the mutation for Huntington’s disease has occurred, simply by taking a blood sample.

Huntington’s Disease Treatment Options

No method of halting the death of the brain cells or cure for those who inherit the huntingtin gene is known. For now, Huntington’s disease treatment is limited to slowing the progression of symptoms so that the patient can function for as long as possible.

Huntington’s disease treatment depends on the symptoms that the patient exhibits. Medications can be prescribed to alleviate some of the symptoms. The following is a list of medications that may be prescribed for Huntington’s disease treatment:

  • Clonazepam (Klonopin): A tranquilizer to control movements, violent outbursts and hallucinations.
  • Clozapine (Clozaril): An antipsychotic drug to control movements, violent outbursts and hallucinations.
  • Haloperidol (Haldol): An antipsychotic drug to control movements, violent outbursts and hallucinations.
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac): A drug that helps control depression and obsessive-compulsive rituals.
  • Lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid): A treatment option that can help control extreme emotions and mood swings.
  • Nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor): A medication to help control depression and obsessive-compulsive rituals.
  • Phenothiazine: A dopamine blocker to control uncontrollable jerking.
  • Sertraline (Zoloft): Another drug that helps control depression and obsessive-compulsive rituals.

Speech therapy may be a treatment option for some

Huntington’s disease patients. Huntington’s disease can affect a person’s ability to express complex thoughts, but that doesn’t mean that the person does not understand what is going on around him or her. It’s important for caregivers and family members to remember this. Speech therapy has been shown to be an effective Huntington’s disease treatment for some patients.

A Huntington’s disease treatment regimen should also include nutritional support, regular exercise and social activity. This will require the support of caregivers because it can be difficult for patients to eat and swallow, walk without falling, and participate in social activities outside of the home. All of these activities also require emotional support.

In some cases, Huntington’s disease treatment should include a professional caregiver, institutional care, or home care to ensure that all needs can be met without exhausting family members.

Resources

Neurology Channel. (2004). Huntington’s disease.

Mayo Clinic. (2003). Huntington’s disease: Treatment.