6 early warning signs of Huntington's disease
1. Poor coordination
At the onset of Huntington's disease, coordination problems can be so small that they can be easily ruled out. These changes may include compromised balance, clumsiness, trips, or mild difficulty with daily activities such as driving.
As the disease progresses, however, these symptoms will worsen. Feeding can also become a problem in later stages, since decreased coordination can cause a person to spill or throw food.
2. Involuntary movements
In some cases, Huntington's disease will initially manifest as small, uncontrollable muscle movements. Speaking to Prevention, Susan Perlman, MD, a neurologist and director of the Center for Excellence in Huntington's Disease at UCLA, says that the affected person may not be aware of these changes, and that it is often friends or family members who they notice "fingers always touching or a contraction in the face".
In the later stages of the disease, these small movements may progress to more pronounced jerks or spasms, a condition known as chorea.
Depression among those with Huntington's disease is very common. In fact, the Mayo Clinic says it is the most common psychiatric disorder associated with the disease.
But the source points out that depression is not simply a reaction to the diagnosis. On the contrary, it occurs "due to an injury to the brain and subsequent changes in brain function." This can cause additional symptoms such as irritability, social isolation, insomnia or fatigue.
4. Short-term memory loss
A person in the early stages of Huntington's disease may also have trouble remembering things. Specifically, they may have difficulties with short-term memory lapses. According to ImproveMemory.org, other memory problems include "lack of judgment and decision-making skills, difficulty with problem-solving skills, and a short attention span that may deteriorate over time."
In some cases, people with Huntington's disease will develop dementia. The Alzheimer's Society says symptoms may include "difficulties with concentration, planning and organizational skills." Unlike those with Alzheimer's disease, however, patients with Huntington's disease who have dementia "will continue to recognize people and places until the later stages of the disease."
5. Slight lack of emotion
Because Huntington's disease damages the areas of the brain responsible for emotion, an initial symptom of the disorder is that a person may exhibit apathy, a lack of emotion.
Or, on the other hand, they can alternate emotions quite irregularly, experiencing outbursts of aggression, anger, excitement or frustration. As with the other symptoms, this emotional confusion usually worsens as the disease progresses, putting immense pressure on personal relationships.
6. Decrease in speed or stiffness
From the beginning, a person with Huntington's disease may notice that their movements become slower, or discover that their muscles feel stiff from time to time.
As the disease gets worse, these symptoms can also get worse. Some people may develop dystonia, a movement disorder that causes the muscles to contract involuntarily or become rigid over time. This can lead to problems with posture, speech and swallowing.
Video credits to HEALTH AREA YouTube channel