Huntington’s disease is an inherited disease that causes progressive degeneration of nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. The deterioration of these nerve cells can lead to uncontrolled movements, cognitive problems, and emotional disturbances.
How common is Huntington’s disease?
Approximately 25,000 to 30,000 people have been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, and another 75,000 are estimated to carry the gene that will cause the disease.
Who gets Huntington’s disease?
Huntington’s affects men and women equally, and disease onset usually begins in midlife.
The disease is passed down from a parent to a child through a mutated gene. Each child of a parent with Huntington’s disease has a 50-50 chance of inheriting the gene.
How is Huntington’s disease diagnosed?
To diagnose Huntington’s disease, your doctor may review your medical history, conduct a neurological examination, and order lab tests to determine whether or not you inherited the mutated gene. Presymptomatic testing is available for those at risk of carrying the gene.
Disease onset and progression vary from person to person, but symptoms usually evolve slowly.
Early symptoms of Huntington’s disease include:
- Decrease in cognitive ability
- Decrease in mobility
- Mood swings
- Involuntary twitching and jerk movements (chorea)
- Lack of coordination
As the disease progresses, concentration, memory, and involuntary movements worsen. Eventually, your ability to walk, speak, and swallow are affected. Contact a medical professional if you are having symptoms.
There is no cure for Huntington’s disease and no way to slow its progression. Medications may help manage physical and emotional symptoms, and physical and occupational therapy may help you maintain some degree of mobility and independence.
- Date of last review: December 16, 2016