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MAIN Arrow to HealthHealth Arrow to DiseaseDiseases Arrow to Huntington's DiseaseHuntington's Disease

Huntington's disease

In purple, the stratium is the
area of the brain most damaged
in early Huntington's disease.

Huntington's disease (HD) is a genetic condition passed from parent to child through a mutation in a normal gene. The faulty gene results in irreversible damage to the brain's nerve cells resulting in physical, mental and emotional disorders.

A child of an HD parent has a 50-50 chance of inheriting the disease, which has no known cure. However, children who do not inherit the gene will not develop the disease and cannot pass it on to future generations.

The disease may vary in progression, although early symptoms of adult onset typically include personality disorders such as depression or mood swings. As Huntington's disease progresses, chorea may develop resulting in uncontrolled movements in the face, hands or feet.

Other symptoms commonly include chronic jaw clenching, difficulty in walking, slurred speech, loss of coordination and difficulty in swallowing. Early cognitive symptoms such as confusion and memory loss, similar to Alzheimer's disease, may also deteriorate into hallucinations, unprovoked aggression, paranoia and full-blown dementia.

Onset of Huntington's disease between 30-50 years of age, although symptoms may start much earlier or much later. Adult symptoms may develop over a number of years, but juvenile HD progresses much faster and the disease commonly runs its terminal course over a period of 10 years.

With no known cure for Huntington's disease, symptoms can be managed with medications such as antidepressants, tranquilizers for muscle twitching, or anti-psychotics for hallucinations or violent outbursts.

HD progression in adults may last for years, and health insurance coverage may be difficult to come by for this most chronic of illnesses.

Caregiving responsibilities are usually prolonged and grow more intensive as symptoms worsen. Options such as home care, assisted home care, occupational therapy or - for more severe cases, a full-time nursing facility - must be carefully considered at each stage of the disease.

Elsewhere on the Web, find out more about Huntington's disease diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, with more on current research, experimental medications and clinical trials, and helpful online resources and advice for HD patient family members and caregivers ...

More about Huntington's disease around the Web:

Huntington's Disease Lighthouse Families - Major online support group by and for HD families & caregivers in the U.S. with information on clinical trails, first person stories, diet tips, research library.

Huntington's Disease: Hope Through Research - Extensive overview of its causes, testing and diagnosis, available treatments for symptoms, prognosis, current research and community support services, glossary of terms, and helpful links to related resources.

What is Huntington Disease? - Online handbook providing detailed information on genetic causes with specifics on the HD gene, and helpful links to educational resources, patient & family support, current research literature. - Huntington's Disease - Information on clinical trials of new experimental treatments conducted at research facilities across the U.S., with contact details and eligibility requirements.


This information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.
All treatment decisions should be made by medical professionals.

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