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Huntington's Disease (HD)

Treatments for Huntington's Disease (HD)

Currently, there is no cure for HD or way to slow the disease’s progression. Thus, treatment options for patients with this condition aim to reduce or alleviate symptoms. For instance, medications, including antipsychotic drugs and benzodiazepines can help with movement or neurobehavioral problems associated with HD, though antipsychotics in particular can have severe side effects and should only be used if the patient’s chorea has become debilitating. Other medications such as monoamine-depleting agents may also alleviate chorea, though these too can have serious and even life-threatening side effects. Antidepressant drugs may also be prescribed to reduce the anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders often associated with HD, and lithium or valproic acid may be used to alleviate severe mood swings.

Patients with HD will need to adhere to a proper diet and exercise regimen, including—especially as the disease progresses—caretakers allowing plenty of time to finish meals, and cutting foods into very small pieces to prevent choking. HD patients often need two to three times the caloric intake as an average person to maintain their body weight, and they are also at risk for dehydration. Regular exercise is vital as well, as patients who exercise tend to have fewer symptoms and a slower disease progression.

Speech therapy can also help patients’ ability to communicate even as the disease progresses, and social activities should be encouraged for as long as possible to aid the patient’s wellbeing. Physical therapy can help improve the patient’s mobility, reduce pain, restore mobility and prevent further injury. In addition, psychotherapy can help HD patients manage their behavioral problems and develop coping strategies to deal with the disease’s progression, and occupational therapy can help patients to use assistive devices to maintain their ability to function.