It Wasn’t Witchcraft—It Was Huntington Disease!


Penaranda E, Garcia A, Montgomery L. It wasn’t Witchcraft–It was Huntington Disease! J Am Board Fam Med. 2011 Jan-Feb;24(1):115-6. PubMed PMID: 21209352. [Free full text via PubMed]

Investigators from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso, TX, report about a Mexican woman and her family who were affected by Huntington disease:

“Chief complaint: “no puedo quedarme quieta” (“I can’t stay still”). Ms. G. is a 47-year-old Mexican woman who presented to a community clinic on the United States–Mexico border complaining of a 5-year history of progressively uncontrollable movements; they were initially twitches in her neck and mouth then grew to involve her 4 extremities, and they currently prevent her from independently performing her activities of daily living. She was seeing a curandero, (a Mexican folk healer), who attributed her symptoms to a magic spell that had been placed on all of her family. The curandero treated her with rituals and natural remedies: semilla de uva (grape seed), ojo de gallina (rooster eye), cola de caballo (horse tail), sarsaparilla extract, prune tea, and chamomile tea. Some of her family members have had or currently have similar symptoms. Physical examination revealed generalized, 2-second choreiform movements, dysarthria, wide-based station gait, and depressed mood. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain showed diffuse brain atrophy. Genetic testing showed IT15 allele 1: 46 CAG repeats and IT15 allele 2: 22 CAG repeats, confirming the diagnosis of Huntington disease (HD). Ms.G. was referred to genetic counseling and HD support groups. Her offspring refused genetic testing.”

The authors urge “the importance of cultural competency in fostering a trusting relationship that may lessen the burden of catastrophic diseases on individuals, families, and society at large.”

Free full text is available via PubMed.

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