Term Paper: Huntington's Disease Affects Families

Pages: 9 (3858 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Disease  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] This was because it was Huntington that happened to present the disease in all its clarity of symptoms, and was also able to identify the hereditary nature of the disease, a fact that had not been discovered until that time. (Neurohistory, History of Huntington's disease)

While the various unrelated movements of chorea had been described in great detail before this time, it was when the basic nature of the disease; that it was hereditary and also that it could be passed on from both the father and the mother of the child, to the child, and also the late onset of the disease set it apart and differentiated it from the other choreas that had been described till then. However, one major mistake that the esteemed physician made was that, since he happened to discover the disease among certain Long Island families who lived in Long Island at that time, he made the assumption that the disease had something to do with Long Island, and stated that it was merely a matter of 'medical curiosity' that it had happened to those families in that particular area. When George Huntington, who was descended form a long family line of doctors, presented the paper on the discovery of the disease and its peculiarities, it grabbed the attention of the medical fraternity and also the scientific community immediately, and it was after this that the dreaded disease was given a proper name, and research was begun on why it was occurring, the symptoms, and its diagnosis and its treatment. However, the research has not yet been able to provide a proper and surefire cure for the disease, and when the patient is afflicted, then the slow and steady progress of his various involuntary symptoms is a matter of time, and so is his death. (Neurohistory, History of Huntington's disease)

The following is a timeline of the Huntington's disease: It was in the sixteenth century that Parcelsus discovered 'chorea'. In the seventeenth century, Thomas Sydenham classified the different types of chorea. Sadly enough, the incident of the burning of the 'witches of Salem' took place at Massachusetts, in the year 1692, where the so called 'witches' may have been sufferers of the disease, which had no name as yet, other than that of the 'St. Vitus' Dance'. After the 1872 pronouncement of George Huntington that there was indeed a hereditary disease that was producing involuntary movements in its sufferers, the disease was finally named as Huntington's disease, and soon afterwards, in the early part of the 1900s and later, there was a considerable amount of interest in the Huntington's disease, and when the American eugenicist wrote the book, 'Heredity in relation to Eugenics' in 1911, wherein he stressed that genetic diseases like the Huntington's disease and others must be controlled, and therefore, compulsory sterilization for immigrants as well as for those who carried the symptoms of any other genetic diseases must be advocated, he stressed. These statements generated more interest in genetics and inherited diseases, and specifically in the Huntington's disease, and soon the interest spread to all parts of the world, and research into the causes and the significance and the treatment of the disease began. (A Brief History of Huntington's disease)

Arvid Carllson and Oleh Horniekiewicz, two European made the breakthrough in the late 1950s that it was the dopamine pathways between the neurons in the brains of the patients of Parkinson's disease were destroyed. Scientists feel that, since Huntington's disease is the exactly opposite of Parkinson's disease, then it is most reasonable to assume that the decrease of the dopamine levels of the Huntington's disease patients would be a key step in attempting to treat the disease. In 1983, scientists made another breakthrough, and this was the discovery of a gene marker that was linked to Huntington's disease on the so called 'short arm' of the fourth chromosome, and this was also indicative of the fact that the specific Huntington gene was located in Chromosome Four. Predictive linkage testing was introduced, and this would assess the chances of contracting the Huntington's disease in the next generation of the patient of the disease. In the year 1993, scientists made a further discovery, that the Huntington's disease gene was located exactly on the 4p16.3 gene site on chromosome four, and this gene contained a C-A-G Codon of variable length, and when there is an abnormal amount of the CAG in the body, it would repeat itself endlessly in a specific manner, and this would be extremely useful in the prediction and in the diagnosis of the Huntington's disease. The sufferer would definitely benefit from this type of discovery, and research is still being conducted for the possible cure for the disease. (A Brief History of Huntington's disease)

The discovery of the HD gene in the year 1993 has now made it possible for testing the 'at-risk' individuals even before the symptoms of the disease occur. This is a great boon to those individuals who are aware that they may have inherited the condition from one of their parents who may be suffering form the disease at the present time, and who would have been, in turn, unaware that he was in fact carrying the disease within himself, and may have passed it on to one or more of his children. However, the innate difficulty lies in the fact that though it is possible to test for the disease, there is as yet no cure for it, and this raises the question of whether or not to avail of the test. Today, there are websites where the families of the afflicted individuals can visit and find out more about the disease and treatment and cures. One of them is the 'caring for People with Huntington's disease', at http://www.kumc.edu/hospital/huntingtons/why.html.

Online support is given to the patient and his family, and the patient feels that he is not alone in his suffering, and this is the most important aspect of the cure for the disease, as there is no medicine that would effectively remove the symptoms of the sufferer of the Huntington's disease. The primary care giver must be prepared for all the demonstrations of symptoms of the disease, and must be prepared to deal with them in an appropriate manner. One important thing to remember is the fact that the patient with mild symptoms of the Huntington's disease is more often than not a victim of abuse, because of the number of mental changes that he would have had to undergo as a result of his disease and its progression. If the caregiver is unable to adapt quickly enough to the changes in the patient, then too there will be problems. It works both ways, in one case, the caregiver can abuse the patient, and in another case, the patient can abuse his entire family because of this disease. (Caring for people with Huntington's disease)

Obsessions and compulsions, dementia, irritability, behavioral problems, hallucinations, and altered family dynamics are all a part of the problem of the patient, and the basis of the treatment lies in an understanding of all these symptoms. Sometimes, the patient may feel overwhelmed with frustration and he may resort to verbal abuse, physical abuse, and exploitation. Sometimes, there may even be sexual exploitation of the patient, and the main reason for this is that the patient forgets all the inhibitions that he has learnt from when he was a small child, and with the discard of inhibitions, he seeks sexual gratification wherever and whenever he wants it, even if it may not be in an appropriate place or with the proper person. A lot of people may exploit this tendency, and the patient may be totally and completely exploited, if the family does not watch out. (Abuse the patient)

Home safety is another issue that the family of the patient of Huntington's disease must learn more about, so that they may be able to look after the person better. There are many areas in the home that are quite unsafe for the Huntington's disease patient, and these must be removed form the immediate vicinity or steps taken to shift them elsewhere so that there may be no harm done not only to themselves but to others too. If the caregiver were to assume that this was a toddler or a small child and then go about clearing the entire house of harmful objects, then the home will be safe. The important thing to remember is the fact that the perception of reality for the Huntington patient may be different from the reality, and they may pick up the object that is nearest at hand to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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