Huntington’s disease is a relatively unknown condition in India. The same lack of awareness does not apply to mobile phones. However, a new app could allow all mobile users the capacity to identify the early-stage symptoms of the disease.
Huntington’s disease is a degenerative brain condition which eventually results in death, typically after around fifteen to twenty years. The disease begins with minor symptoms but progresses into a disabling condition that can require 24-hour nursing care. Knowledge of the disease in India is severely lacking, including the true extent of its prevalence within the country.
The disease is understood to be far more common in Western nations, although some studies have suggested that the prevalence within India may be closer to that of the West than other Asian countries. One notable study analysed thirty unrelated families with Huntington’s across India. They found a specific mutation within those individuals studied in southern India compared with those in northern India, suggesting a distinct ancestral mutation leading to Huntington’s disease in the former.
The app, provided via the Google Play store, has been developed as a collaboration between physicians and the Huntington’s Disease Association. The app provides users with a series of tests to check a potential patient for the early warning signs of the disease. If symptoms are present, the user is encouraged to contact relevant medical professionals.
Early symptoms of the disease can include irritability, depression, small involuntary movements, poor coordination, and trouble learning new information or making decisions. These symptoms, however, are not unique to those with Huntington’s disease. It is for these reasons the app is simply an advisory system, encouraging analysis by a qualified professional.
Such an app could prove useful in India, particularly in rural locations where healthcare infrastructure is limited. Regular health check ups are not available to many in India. For this reason diseases that are asymptomatic or present only subtly in their early stages often go under the radar for many years.
In these instances, those with Huntington’s may simply be shrugged off as having mental health symptoms due to presenting with symptomatic depression or mood swings. Misdiagnosis such as this may lead to symptoms worsening at a hastened rate due to lack of medication and care.
While Huntington’s disease cannot be cured, symptom management can significantly improve the quality of life of those living with the disease. Antidepressants and antipsychotics can assist greatly with the psychological symptoms. Likewise, physiotherapy can aid with the coordination and movement impairment.
In order for the app to help, information regarding the disease must be spread throughout India. As a relatively rare and often overlooked disorder, awareness of the disease is low. The app — with all its potential benefits — is unlikely to see a large degree of uptake in a population where the disease is all but unknown.