Huntington disease (HD) is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder that causes nerve cells in specific parts of the brain to waste away and die. Signs and symptoms of this inherited disease typically develop in middle age.
Signs and Symptoms
Huntington disease usually develops slowly, and the severity of signs and symptoms is related to the degree of nerve cell loss. Death occurs about 10 to 30 years after the onset of signs and symptoms. The disease progression may occur faster in younger people.
Symptoms may include:
- Personality changes such as irritability, anger, depression or obsessive behaviour
- Decreased cognitive abilities such as inability to focus, make decisions, answer questions and remember important information
- Physical deterioration such as weight loss, involuntary facial movements, diminished coordination, mild balance problems, clumsiness and/or inability to walk, talk or swallow
Causes / Physiology
Huntington disease is a genetic disorder caused by a single abnormal gene. If one parent has the single faulty gene, each child born to a parent with HD has a 50 per cent chance of acquiring the disease.
Medications are available to help manage the signs and symptoms of Huntington disease, but treatments cannot prevent the physical and mental decline associated with it, which leads to complete incapacitation and eventually death.
Huntington Disease Advocacy Centre: www.hdac.org
Huntington Society of Canada: www.huntingtonsociety.ca