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Both Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases involve the central nervous system and cause fairly similar symptoms. However, they do have key differences that medical professionals can use in their diagnosis.

In the UK, Parkinson’s is the most common by far, as around 153,000 people are already living with the condition. In contrast, there are only about 7,000 people living with Huntington’s disease in Britain.

Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. There is no cure at present, although research is ongoing. There is also no cure for Huntington’s. Sadly, its progress can’t be reversed or slowed down.


Is Huntington’s disease similar to Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s is caused by the nerve cells in the brain failing to produce enough dopamine. This can be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Huntington’s is an inherited condition caused by a genetic abnormality.

Both diseases display uncontrollable movements. However, people with Huntington’s experience more jerky actions, while a constant tremor is one of the main Parkinson’s symptoms.

When comparing Parkinson vs Huntington disease, as with any neurodegenerative illness, the affected nerve cells can produce a variety of similar symptoms including involuntary movements, poor balance and coordination, trembling in the hands and difficulties in making decisions or learning new information.

Cognitive decline and dementia can also occur with both conditions. However, each has specific symptoms, so a medical professional will need to make an accurate diagnosis.


Parkinson’s symptoms

Parkinson’s normally starts at the age of around 70, although it can begin sooner.

Tremors involve shaking, with a rhythmic back and forth motion, while stiff muscles that resist movement will remain tense and contracted, causing rigidity.

Spontaneous and automatic movements slow down, making it challenging to complete routine movements and perform simple tasks. Impaired balance and posture changes cause body instability, increasing the risk of falls.

Other symptoms of Parkinson’s can include urinary problems, emotional changes including depression, sleep and language problems, fatigue and dementia.

For people with Parkinson’s, sleep problems can include difficulties in falling asleep or excessive sleepiness, restless legs syndrome and a risk of falling out of bed. Specialist beds are designed for people with Parkinson’s to help keep them safe at night.


Huntington’s disease symptoms

With symptoms including abnormal body postures, uncontrolled movements, difficulties in eating and swallowing, cognitive problems, changes in behaviour and judgement, slurred speech and impaired coordination; Huntington’s usually develops between the ages of 30 and 50 and during the next 20 years, its progress can be relentless.

Motor symptom onset is used for the neurological clinical diagnosis of Huntington’s disease. It can also cause emotional problems, with depression being the most common psychiatric symptom.

Different sleep patterns and disturbances are experienced, and these can include insomnia, difficulty falling asleep and frequent night-time awakenings. A specialist Huntington’s bed can help improve sleep quality, as it is purpose-designed to enhance safety and comfort.

A specialist bed can help alleviate the risk of falls and injuries caused by involuntary movements, as the bed has strong padded sides up to 700mm high from the top of the mattress.


Treatments for Parkinson’s vs Huntington’s

Currently, there are more treatment options available for people with Parkinson’s. Levodopa is the most effective medicine. A natural chemical, it is converted into dopamine and can help people with Parkinson’s to manage problems with movement, walking and tremors.

Amantadine, an antiviral drug, can also help to reduce involuntary movements.

The treatment plan for Parkinson’s can include physical, occupational and speech therapy to help people achieve daily functions. Patients are also encouraged to eat healthier foods, and exercise, when possible, to help strengthen muscles.

Currently, there are no specific treatments to slow down the progression of Huntington’s disease, although some medications can help with the symptoms. These can include Tetrabenazine to help control involuntary movements and antidepressants to treat symptoms that may follow a diagnosis.

Studies into Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease are ongoing, but because Huntington’s is genetic, preventing the condition from occurring currently isn’t possible.

For more information on What’s the Difference between Parkinson’s and Huntington’s? talk to Kinderkey Healthcare Ltd

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