The goal of Huntington’s disease treatment is to reduce symptoms and help the person function for as long and as comfortably as possible. There is no cure yet, and no way to stop disease progression. IU Health Neuroscience offers the full range of the most innovative treatments, research, and our highly skilled doctors determine the best course of therapy for each person.
Medications can lessen some symptoms of movement and psychiatric disorders. Dopamine blockers may help reduce abnormal behaviors and movements. Other options include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety and mood-stabilizing drugs. Medication is likely to evolve over the course of the disease and some drugs may result in side effects that worsen other symptoms. Therefore, the treatment goals and plan will be regularly reviewed and updated.
Multiple therapeutic interventions can help a person with Huntington’s disease adapt to changes in ability.
A psychotherapist—a psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical social worker—can provide talk therapy to help a person manage behavioral problems, develop coping strategies, manage expectations during progression of the disease and facilitate effective communication among family members.
Huntington’s can significantly impair control of muscles of the mouth and throat that are essential for speech, eating and swallowing. A speech therapist can help improve your ability to speak clearly or teach you to use communication devices, such as a board covered with pictures of everyday items and activities. They can also address difficulties with muscles used in eating and swallowing.
A physical therapist can teach you appropriate and safe exercises that enhance strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. These exercises can help maintain mobility as long as possible and may reduce the risk of falls. Instruction on appropriate posture and the use of supports to improve posture may help lessen the severity of some movement problems. When the use of a walker or wheelchair is required, the physical therapist can provide instruction on appropriate use of the device and posture. Also, exercise regimens can be adapted to suit the new level of mobility.
An occupational therapist can assist the person with Huntington’s disease, family members and caregivers on the use of assistive devices that improve functional abilities. These strategies may include:
- Handrails at home
- Assistive devices for activities such as bathing and dressing
- Eating and drinking utensils adapted for people with limited fine motor skills