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Huntington's Disease - How Effective Is Speech Therapy In It?

Written and reviewed by
Speech Therapist, Delhi
 Huntington's Disease - How Effective Is Speech Therapy In It?

There are various neurodegenerative disorders and Huntington Disease is one of them. It is characterized by loss of thinking ability, chorea or uncontrolled writhing and jerking movements, and psychiatric difficulties. 

Nerve cells in the brain are impaired in this disease. This leads to loss of coordination and involuntary movements. As the disease progresses, patients slowly fail to control their throat and mouth muscles and simple tasks like eating, swallowing, and speaking becomes challenging.

Huntington's Disease may also affect the reasoning and thinking abilities of an individual and makes communication and conversations more challenging. The problem of swallowing food can lead to choking as food can go down the wrong way or a lung infection in more severe cases. 

Speech-Language Pathologist or Speech Therapist helps the patients with speaking and swallowing problems with the help of various therapies.

Visiting a Speech-Language Pathologist in the initial stage of Huntington's Disease is advised. This helps in planning in advance about the ways to handle changes as the disease progresses. The therapist can help the patients when they begin showing an inability to speak or understand and swallowing problems. The symptoms showing swallowing difficulties may include choking, coughing and altered eating habits of the patient and loss of weight.

Symptoms

  • Dysarthria, in which the ability to remember words, understanding and forming a sentence is not lost but clear speech becomes difficult.

  • Stammering.

  • Slow or imprecise speech.

  • Aphasia, inability to understand what is being said and inability to remember grammar and vocabulary, and the pattern of losing a word in between the sentences.

  • Weak voice or low volume because of respiration issues.

  • Scanned Speech or unusual lengthy pauses between words.

  • Problem with pitch control and resonance.

Treatment

The progression of Huntington’s disease varies from patient to patient and the therapy also varies as per the needs and challenges of the patients. The therapy usually starts with the discussion of problems and symptoms faced by the patients. 

For swallowing difficulties, patients may be recommended to maintain a journal of swallowing problems and fixing a time for meal intake every day. He/she may be recommended to eat soft food items, and eat slowly and chew the food properly.

As for speech therapy, one may be recommended breathing exercises. The therapist may demonstrate the patients how to overemphasize certain mouth movements to make the words easier to understand. The family of the patient is advised to reduce distraction while communicating with the patient. 

Assistive devices can also help with communication such as computers, smartphones or tablets. Other low-tech objects from everyday life, such as calendars, picture boards with a depiction of daily life activities, and object images and notebooks can also be helpful.

Take Away

Huntington Disease is a brain disorder where it becomes difficult for a person to control mouth muscles. In this, speaking, swallowing, and eating becomes a task for them. There are speech therapies that can help the patients to gather control over their words and communication problems.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult a specialist & get answers to your questions!
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