Huntington's disease is a degenerative genetic disorder that affects the nerve cells in parts of the brain. By causing the nerve cells to waste away over time, it is a progressive disease that influences behavior, mental state and movement. The initial symptoms are often behavioral, and may include moodiness, restlessness, hallucinations, paranoia and psychosis. The muscles of the body are affected, which may result in facial tics, sudden jolting movements, trouble walking and sluggishness. As the disease progresses, dementia sets in and eventually worsens, potentially resulting in confusion, loss of memory and changes to the personality.
Most people with Huntington's disease have the adult-onset form of the condition. Symptoms typically begin to appear when they are in their mid-30s to 40s. There is also a less common early-onset variation in which initial symptoms start during childhood or adolescence. Since it is a genetic disorder, it must run in the patient's family. If a person's parent has Huntington's disease, there is a 50% risk of inheriting the gene. Genetic testing can be done to determine whether you possess the gene. If you do have the gene, you will develop the disease at some point.
At this time, there is no known cure for Huntington's disease. Instead, treatment is aimed at slowing its progression and controlling its symptoms. There are several types of medications that can be effective in some cases. Dopamine blockers may be successful with both behavior and movement issues. Other drugs, including tetrabenazine and amantadine, may help prevent uncontrolled motions. Depression is common in patients with Huntington's disease, and that may relieved under the care of a mental health provider.
Eventually, the disease worsens to the point that the patient will most likely need care around the clock. But both the symptoms and the disorder's progression vary from person to person, and some patients may not experience major symptoms for many years.
Parkinson's disease is a chronic, progressive disease that develops when the cells that produce dopamine are dead or severely damaged. Dopamine acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and helps control behavior, cognition, motor activity and several other actions. When these cells do not function properly, the brain often loses control of some bodily actions.
Parkinson's disease often begins as a tremor in the hand that slowly spreads throughout the body, causing slowed voluntary motion, rigid muscles, stooped posture, loss of involuntary movements and speech changes. These symptoms usually occur gradually and can go undetected for months or years. There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, but symptoms can usually be controlled through medication or physical therapy. Deep brain stimulation surgery may also be performed if the disease does not respond to conservative treatments.
Spasmodic torticollis is a rare disorder involving random contractions of your neck muscles, causing your head to bend in various directions. The exact cause of this condition is often unknown, although research suggests that it may associated with brain or spinal cord tumors, injury to the head, neck or shoulder, strokes, or certain drugs or toxins. While this condition can affect anyone at any point during their lives, spasmodic torticollis most commonly affects middle-aged women.
People with spasmodic torticollis most commonly experience their head being twisted in such a way that their chin is pulled towards their shoulder; this condition can cause your head to twist in other directions as well. Additional symptoms may include neck pain, abnormal shoulder elevation, and tremors affecting the arm or hand. Contact your doctor if you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, as these may be a sign of spasmodic torticollis.
To diagnose spasmodic torticollis, your doctor will begin with a physical examination and review of your medical history. To rule out other conditions, imaging tests, electromyography, and/or blood or urine tests may also be performed.
Since spasmodic torticollis cannot be cured, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. Botulinum toxin injections, muscle relaxants and certain medications used to manage Parkinson's disease are commonly prescribed. Physical therapy may also be recommended to relieve pain. Surgery may be required for severe cases of spasmodic torticollis that remain unresponsive to conservative treatment methods; however, this is rarely required.