Huntington's Disease

What is Huntington's disease?

Huntington's disease is a genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain, leading to a range of symptoms, including movement problems, cognitive decline, and psychiatric disturbances.


Who's at risk for Huntington's disease?

Huntington's disease is caused by a genetic mutation that is inherited from a person's parents. Anyone who has a parent with the disease has a 50% chance of inheriting the mutation and developing the disease.


What causes Huntington's disease?

Huntington's disease is caused by a genetic mutation in the huntingtin gene, which produces a toxic protein that accumulates in the brain and damages nerve cells.


How does Huntington's disease start?

Huntington's disease typically starts in adulthood, usually between the ages of 30 and 50, although it can occur at any age. The disease progresses slowly over time, leading to a range of symptoms that worsen over time.


What are the symptoms of Huntington's disease?

The symptoms of Huntington's disease may include:

  • Movement problems, including chorea (involuntary movements) and difficulties with coordination and balance
  • Cognitive decline, including difficulties with memory, judgment, and decision-making
  • Psychiatric disturbances, including depression, anxiety, irritability, and personality changes
  • Speech and swallowing difficulties
  • Weight loss and malnutrition


How is Huntington's disease diagnosed?

Diagnosing Huntington's disease typically involves a physical examination and a review of the person's medical history and symptoms. Genetic testing may also be done to confirm the presence of the genetic mutation that causes the disease.


How can Huntington's disease be treated?

Treatment for Huntington's disease typically focuses on managing symptoms and improving quality of life. This may involve medications to help control movement problems or psychiatric disturbances, as well as physical therapy and occupational therapy to help maintain mobility and independence.


What complications may occur with Huntington's disease?

Complications of Huntington's disease may include:

  • Loss of independence and ability to perform daily activities
  • Increased risk of accidents or injuries due to movement problems
  • Social isolation or stigma related to the symptoms of the disease
  • Emotional distress or anxiety related to the diagnosis of the disease and the progression of symptoms


How can I prevent Huntington's disease?

There is currently no known way to prevent Huntington's disease, as it is a genetic disorder caused by a specific mutation in the huntingtin gene. Genetic counseling and testing may be helpful for individuals who have a family history of the disease and want to assess their risk.


Long-term management of Huntington's disease

People with Huntington's disease may require ongoing medical care and support to manage their condition and maintain quality of life. This may involve regular check-ups with a healthcare provider, as well as support from family members, caregivers, and community resources.


What is recent research saying about Huntington's disease?

Recent research in Huntington's disease has focused on improving understanding of the genetic and biological mechanisms that cause the disease, as well as developing new treatments and therapies to slow or stop the progression of the disease. Some of the promising areas of research include:

  • Development of new medications and therapies that target the toxic protein produced by the mutated huntingtin gene
  • Investigation of the impact of environmental factors, such as diet and exercise, on the progression of the disease
  • Exploration of new approaches to gene editing and gene therapy that may help prevent or cure the disease in the future


Where can I go for more information on Huntington's disease?

If you or someone you know has Huntington's disease or wants more information on the condition, it is important to seek help from a healthcare provider who specializes in the treatment of neurological disorders. The following organizations also provide information and resources on Huntington's disease: