By Mili Jayadeep
Huntington’s Disease is a neurodegenerative condition affecting the basal ganglia and cerebral cortex of the brain. It is a hereditary condition that causes debilitating symptoms affecting a person’s everyday life. Effects of the disease include involuntary movements, muscle rigidity, problems with behaviour, cognition and memory, which progressively worsen over time. Unfortunately, there is limited medical help for the condition as there is no current cure.
Following diagnosis, the condition is managed by prescribing medications to ease the effects of the symptoms and referred to get physiotherapy. Physiotherapy aims to improve a person’s strength, balance and gait. By improving overall fitness, physiotherapy and exercise helps Huntington’s disease patients perform better at everyday activities hence improving their quality of life and gain independence.
Researchers from Cardiff university are involved with an association that has found the significance of physiotherapy in helping Huntington’s patients. On conducting systematic review, they have presented their findings in the ‘Journal of Neurology’ and have recently published the first guidance for treating Huntington’s disease patients, which will form the basis for clinical practice by healthcare professionals. Professor Monica Busse, one of the researchers from Cardiff University’s Huntington’s Disease Centre stresses the importance of physiotherapy: “People with Huntington’s need physiotherapy to help them cope with their changing physical function”
Ian, aged 53, is a Huntington’s disease sufferer with initial behavioural and cognitive symptoms such as irritability and memory problems was later diagnosed for Huntington’s disease. The diagnosis impacted his life in many ways affecting his lifestyle and his everyday activities as well as affecting his family and friends. For example, he could no longer be a lorry driver or take part in things he enjoyed because his motor function was compromised. As it is a hereditary condition, he watched his father struggle with the disease and now his siblings also have Huntington’s. However, Ian refused to let the disease take away his independence. He uses physiotherapy and exercise as a way of managing the condition and lives “each day as it comes”.
Ian’s story is one of many who live with this debilitating disease. The current guidelines proposed by the researchers strive to lengthen a person’s ability to stay mobile as long as possible following diagnosis and empower sufferers even at times of defeat. Physiotherapy, exercise and fitness are key to helping patients tackle the challenges they may face in their day to day lives. The research by Cardiff University hopes to take a step forward in providing this help and support.