What is Huntington’s Disease?
According to the Huntington's Disease Society of America, “Huntington’s disease (HD) is a brain disease that is passed down in families from generation to generation. It is caused by a mistake in the DNA instructions that build our bodies and keep them running. DNA is made up of thousands of genes, and people with HD have a small error in one gene, called huntingtin. Over time this error causes damage to the brain and leads to HD symptoms. HD causes deterioration in a person’s physical, mental, and emotional abilities, usually during their prime working years, and currently has no cure. Most people start developing symptoms during adulthood, between the ages of 30 to 50, but HD can also occur in children and young adults (known as juvenile HD or JHD). HD is known as a family disease because every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the faulty gene. Today, there are approximately 41,000 symptomatic Americans and more than 200,000 at-risk of inheriting the disease.
What Types of Treatment Options Do You Offer People with Huntington’s Disease?
- Aerobic Exercise: There is strong evidence to support the role of aerobic exercise to improve cardiovascular function, fitness, and stabilization or improvement of motor function in people with HD. If you’re a seasoned athlete or a first-timer, your PT will work with you calculate your individual moderate & high-intensity zones, monitor your heart rate during exercise, and create a program that you can perform in the gym or at home.
- Strength Training: Your PT will evaluate the strength in your legs, arms, and core then work with you to create an individualized strengthening program that targets muscles or muscle groups where there might be weakness to keep you functioning at your most optimal level.
- Gait Training: It is always important to work on walking, but in people with HD the ability to maintain safe walking is critical to preventing injury. There is good evidence to support supervised, 1:1 gait training in people with HD to improve gait pattern and dynamic balance which reduces your overall risk for falls. Your physical therapist will continually evaluate your walking and assist you in creating exercises which will keep you walking as safe as possible for as long as possible.
- Balance Training: At your first visit, your physical therapist will evaluate several components of your balance system to prepare an individualized program to improve your ability to maintain your balance in a number of environments and reduce your overall risk for falls.
- Care Partner Training: Referrals can also be made for a professional seating and positioning evaluation at later stages to reduce pain, improve breathing, prevent pressure wounds, and optimize participation in daily tasks.
Please call (773) 665-9950 for more information or schedule an onsite or virtual appointment.
Helpful Links for People with HD: