This chat has been cancelled due to low registration. For additional information about Huntington's disease you my view the chat transcript from last year at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/multimedia/transcripts/1361_living-with-huntington-s-disease.aspx
Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a disease that affects the brain and causes unsteady and uncontrollable movements in the hands, feet, and face, and mental illness symptoms. People who have HD develop abnormal movements that eventually affect activities such as walking, talking, and swallowing. HD is an inherited disease; a parent passes it to his or her child. It is also a progressive disease meaning it gets worse over time, and movement and everyday activities become increasingly harder. Depending on the patient’s age, he or she may suffer with HD for up to 30 years. The disease is not fatal, but people who have it may die from pneumonia or from injuries due to a fall.
Diagnosis: Since HD is an inherited condition, the doctor will need to know if anyone else in the family has the disease. The doctor will perform a physical examination, paying close attention to abnormal movements, reflexes, and coordination. In addition, the doctor may order brain imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans, and blood tests, to see if there are any diseases that may produce changes similar to HD symptoms.
The HD genetic test is a simple blood test, but the answer may take several weeks. This test is usually done after extensive counseling of the patient and his or her family and after considerable reflection on the part of the patient. In many instances, this counseling should be done by a doctor who specializes in seeing patients with HD. Likewise, testing of the patient’s family members who are well but may have the abnormal gene also is done only after extensive counseling and reflection.
Treatment & Management: There is no cure for HD and no way to halt its progression. Treatments are designed to relieve the symptoms. Antipsychotic medications may be prescribed to treat the abnormal movements (chorea) caused by HD. These drugs may also treat mental symptoms including hallucinations and abnormal behavior and have side effects including sleepiness, and less commonly, abnormal movements.
Patients and caregivers can take steps to improve daily activities. For example, it is helpful to keep the patient’s environment as "normal" as possible. It is also physically and mentally beneficial for the patient to exercise regularly.
Proper nutrition is very important, because patients with HD may have trouble getting enough calories. He or she may need to eat several times a day. For patients with HD who have trouble eating and swallowing, the caregiver can cut the food into smaller bites or puree it to make it easier to swallow. To prevent dehydration (another risk), the patient will need to get enough to drink every day.
Patients and caregivers can also make use of various community resources including home care services, group housing, and institutional care.
Cleveland Clinic's Center for Neurological Restoration is among the first in the world to bring together an interdisciplinary team to offer the latest medical and surgical treatments for patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Mayur Pandya, DO, is a staff physician in Cleveland Clinic’s Center of Neurological Restoration and in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology. Dr. Pandya is also the Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Comprehensive Huntington’s Disease Clinic. His specialties include anxiety disorder, depression, Huntington's Disease, mood disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Parkinson's Disease, psychiatric disorders and Tourette Syndrome. He completed his medical degree at Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens, OH, and completed an internship at the Northside Hospital & Heart Institute in St. Petersburg, FL, before coming to Cleveland Clinic to complete residency training.
To make an appointment with Mayur Pandya, DO, or any of the other specialists in our Neurological Institute at Cleveland Clinic, please call 216.636.5860 or call toll-free at 866.588.2264. You can also visit us online at clevelandclinic.org/neurorestoration.