Huntington's Disease Center: Facts
Huntington's Disease is an inherited brain disorder.
Huntington's Disease typically begins in mid-life, between the ages of 30 and 45, though onset may occur as early as the age of two or as late as the 70s.
Children who develop the juvenile form of the disease rarely live to adulthood.
Huntington's Disease affects males and females equally and affects all ethnic and racial groups.
Early symptoms of Huntington's Disease may affect cognitive ability or mobility and include depression, mood swings, forgetfulness, speech impairment, clumsiness, involuntary twitching and lack of coordination. Symptoms of Huntington's Disease can differ from person to person, even for members from the same family.
Huntington's Disease slowly diminishes the affected individual’s ability to walk, think, talk and reason.
As the disease progresses, concentration and short term memory diminish and involuntary movements of the head, trunk and limbs increase.
Walking, speaking and swallowing abilities deteriorate.
Eventually, a person with Huntington's Disease becomes totally dependent upon others for his or her care.
Eventually the person is unable to care for him or herself.
Huntington's Disease usually progresses over a 10-25 year period. Death follows from complications such as choking, infection or heart failure.
There is, at present, no effective treatment or cure. However, it is possible to treat some of the effects, such as depression and involuntary movements with various medications.
Huntington's Disease is caused by a dominant gene which causes certain brain cells to deteriorate.
Each child of a person with Huntington's Disease has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease causing gene.
Everyone who carries the Huntington's Disease causing gene will develop Huntington's Disease at some point in their lifetime, unless they die of other causes prior to developing signs and symptoms.
More than a quarter of a million Americans have Huntington's Disease or are "at risk" of inheriting the disease from an affected parent.
In 1993, the Huntington's Disease-causing gene was discovered and a direct genetic test was developed which can accurately determine whether a person carries the Huntington's Disease causing gene.
The genetic test can be done predictively (before a person shows any signs of the disease). This is done as part of a program providing counseling and support for the person undergoing testing. A positive predictive genetic test cannot predict when symptoms will begin for an individual.
Huntington's Disease profoundly affects the lives of entire families: emotionally, socially and economically.