Huntington's disease

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Opinion statement

Although available treatments for Huntington's disease (HD) are imperfect, thoughtful application can positively impact quality of life. Dopamine antagonists can provide control of the troublesome hyperkinetic movements. These agents can also diminish the frequency of hallucinations and delusions when symptoms of psychosis occur. Classical neuroleptics have the widest utilization, although atypical antipsychotics are being increasingly used. Suppression of choreiform movements has also been reported with amantadine and tetrabenazine, which is not currently approved in the United States but under investigation. Alteration in mood can be successfully managed with a variety of antidepressant medications. Superior tolerability and value in the management of a variety of behavioral disturbances have lead to extensive use of serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Modest disturbance of mood can sometimes be addressed with anticonvulsant medications. Considered a manifestation of advanced disease, dementia is less commonly addressed therapeutically. However, gathering experience suggests improved cognitive function can occur with cholinesterase inhibitor therapy. Frequently overlooked is the value of rehabilitation services in the management of diverse symptoms. Although the value of a dysphagia evaluation is apparent, the benefit to be derived from physical and occupational therapy involvement cannot be overstated. Current therapeutic trials will undoubtedly provide additional therapies to moderate symptoms, but once the mechanism(s) of selective striatal projection neuron degeneration are delineated, a revolution in the management of HD will occur.

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