Huntington's disease is a degenerating disorder that not only affects coordination of muscles, it also affects mental abilities, memory, eating and swallowing. While the disease is not that common, as just one in every 10,000 people develop it, there is a fifty percent chance that a person will inherit the mutate gene from either parent.
Initially, it was assumed that people suffering from Huntington's disease were suffering from insanity and cognitive problems. However, now that the gene for the disease was discovered in 1993, and with all the advances that medical science has made, it has now come out that the disease is an inherited one that tends to manifest itself during a person's middle age.
Of late, there seems to be some debate about how common Huntington's disease is. While most researchers claim that it is not highly prevalent, two researchers from the UK, Alice Wexler and Michael Rawlins, claim otherwise. They claim that based on the number of patients being looked after by different organizations and trusts in the UK for the disease, there seems to be a higher percentage of people afflicted by Huntington's disease. Presently, there are around 6,702 people in England and Wales suffering from the disease, and the two researchers claim that this is just the tip of the iceberg, as there is around 12.4 percent increase in the number of people being diagnosed with Huntington's.
This can be a frightening statistic for people in the United States. While there is a genetic test available to check whether a person has the gene for the disease, the test cannot predict when the disease will develop. So, this could be the reason why many people who have the disease in their families do not get themselves tested. A person has a fifty percent chance of developing Huntington if he/she has the gene. This also does not mean that the person will definitely get it, but the probability is high. Also, the fear of being ostracized by the society and the cost of the test could be another deterrent for people.
In the previous century, people suffering from Huntington's were not allowed to travel abroad; they were forcibly sterilized; and were treated very badly. Some even claimed that the disease was due to black magic or witchcraft. So, it is quite possible that many people who have the gene or the disease do not seek treatment and may also end being misdiagnosed by their doctors as having schizophrenia or alcoholism. This could mean that the actual number of people suffering from Huntington's disease could be much higher and more common than what is claimed by researchers.
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