This article reveals the differences between Huntington’s disease vs Parkinson’s disease:
Huntington’s Disease (HD)
It an inherited neurodegenerative disorder that damages specific areas of the brain. This leads to cognitive and behavioral changes as well as movement difficulties.
This inherited illness is thought to affect about 1 in every 10,000 people. Both women and men with a family history of HD can inherit the disorder.
The highest prevalence of HD in the world is near Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, where it affects 700 per 100,000 people.
The disorder was first described by George Huntington (1850 to 1916), an American physician.
The symptoms of the disease commonly appear in middle age and worsen over time. An individual with HD may live for 15 to 25 years after developing the first symptoms.
Emotional symptoms include:
- mood swings;
- behavioral problems;
- depression (about 33% of patients experience depression).
Cognitive symptoms include:
- difficulties in making plans and concentrating;
- short-term memory loss.
Physical symptoms include:
- swallowing and speech difficulties;
- jerky movements of the arms or legs;
- walking difficulties;
- a tendency to knock things over;
- lack of coordination;
- mild twitching of the fingers and toes.
Cognitive problems can lead to social isolation. Also, dietary problems, swallowing problems, and sedentarism can cause incontinence, constipation, and weight loss.
Death commonly occurs from a secondary cause, like – pneumonia or heart failure.
It is caused by a mutation in a single gene. The mutation in the disease is known as a CAG triplet repeat and a diagnosis is confirmed when a person has more than 40 repeats.
If one parent is affected, then there is a 50% chance that their child will have the disease. If a child does not inherit the defective gene from the affected parent, he can’t pass it on to his own children.
The disease runs in the families, therefore, people born into families with a medical history of HD have a 50 percent probability of inheriting it.
Diagnosis for HD may require a genetic test. Also, your doctor will conduct a cognitive assessment and physical examination, which involves testing a sufferer’s eye movements, thinking, movement, and balance.
There is no cure for the disease. But, treatments can help manage some of the symptoms. They include:
- medications to help with difficulty swallowing and jerky movements;
- medications to alleviate changes in mood;
- occupational therapy;
Parkinson’s Disease (PD)
It is a degenerative disease of the nervous system which causes disturbances in controlling, initiating, and coordinating movement. The disease was first described in 1817 by James Parkinson, a British physician.
PD is one of the most common movement disorders, affecting over 1 million people in the US. Both women and men can get it. Worldwide, the rates of PD will climb to around 40 million patients by the year 2030.
- tremor at rest – involuntary shaking which decreases with purposeful movement;
- bradykinesia – it is defined as impaired dexterity, slowness of movement, drooling, decreased blinking, and expressionless face;
- postural instability – loss of balance and strength;
- rigidity – stiffness of the body’s core.
Other symptoms which may or may not occur:
- cognitive impairment;
- being stuck in place;
- dragging of one foot;
- difficulty swallowing;
- stooped posture;
- lowered voice volume;
- small, cramped handwriting;
- erectile dysfunction;
- increased sweating;
- trouble completing work-related or everyday tasks;
- skin problems;
- urinary problems;
- low blood pressure.
Note – symptoms typically appear when someone is older than 50 years old.
Possible complications include:
- bladder problems – having difficulty urinating;
- rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder;
- chewing and eating problems – this can lead to poor nutrition and choking;
- anxiety or loss of motivation;
- depression and emotional changes;
- thinking difficulties.
PD is the result of the degeneration of dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra (plays an essential role in reward and movement) in the midbrain. But, exactly why dopamine-producing cells degenerate is unclear.
Also, the affected brain cells of these individuals contain deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies.
People with long periods of exposure to pesticides have a higher risk of developing PD. Some studies have reported that PD is more common in men than in women, however, not all studies have shown this.
Genetics plays some role since around 12 percent of patients with PD have a parent or sibling who also has the disease.
Age – in the US, it is most common among people in their 70s and 80s.
The doctor may check the sufferer’s sense of smell. Also, a neurological examination will evaluate the sufferer’s coordination, walking, and some simple hand tasks.
In the present day, there is no cure for PD. Medications can lessen its symptoms for a few years. The most commonly used medication is levodopa, that is converted to dopamine in the brain.
Other classes of drugs used to counter the symptoms include:
- anticholinergics (they block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the peripheral and the central nervous system);
- cholinesterase inhibitors;
- MAO-B inhibitors (they prevent the breakdown of the chemical messenger dopamine in the brain);
- dopamine agonists.
Huntington’s Disease vs Parkinson’s Disease – Differences
Huntington’s disease results from degeneration of neurons and structures deep within the brain, that are responsible for coordination and movement. It is an autosomal dominant genetic disorder. This actually means that you need to inherit one copy of the defective gene in order to develop the disorder.
Although symptoms of HD can develop at almost any age, they typically start when an individual is aged between 35 and 55 years old. Only 6 to 10 percent of the cases are Juvenile HD (starts before the age of 20 years old).
Parkinson’s disease is an age-related progressive deterioration of certain nerve systems in the brain, that affects balance, movement, and muscle control. Symptoms develop slowly and may start off with slight tremors in one hand.