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Huntington’s Disease and Swallowing Difficulties

People with Huntington’s disease can have a tendency to lose weight without meaning to. However, eating and drinking can become less enjoyable due to difficulties controlling and coordinating movements or tiring quickly. For some, feeling low in mood can also reduce appetite. Swallowing difficulties are called dysphagia.

Your speech and language therapist can carry out a detailed assessment of your swallowing and offer specific advice to make eating and drinking easier. It may also be useful to modify the textures of foods – soft or pureed foods or ‘thicker’ drinks can be easier to swallow.

The following general advice may be helpful:

  • Plan meals to reduce distractions – make sure there is nothing else going on at the same time, such as television or radio and avoid talking while eating.
  • If you tire quickly, rest before meals.
  • Try to eat and drink in a relaxed state – tension can make control of movement more difficult.
  • A chair with arms can help support you in an upright, slightly forward position.
  • Plan for smaller, more frequent meals if you find large meals hard to finish.

An Occupational Therapist can also advise on adaptations to cutlery, plates and other equipment that can make mealtimes easier to manage.

Swallowing may become so difficult that you no longer take pleasure from eating. Some people decide to have a procedure called a Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG for short) where a tube is inserted into the stomach and special food can go directly to the stomach. Individuals that choose PEG feeding continue to eat and drink small amounts in the normal way, with extra food and fluids taken via their PEG.  This can take the pressure off needing to eat and drink large quantities.

The speech and language therapist, physiotherapist, dietician, occupational therapist, GP and neurologist are available to support and advise you on particular aspects of your condition.