What is Huntington's Disease?
Huntington’s Disease (HD) is an inherited, degenerative brain disease. It is
not contagious. It progressively affects the individual’s mental and physical functioning over a 10 to 25 year period, although the range differs for each individual. It slowly diminishes the individual’s ability to walk, think, talk, and reason.
Currently there is no effective cure for HD. Huntington's is frequently confused with schizophrenia and/or substance abuse. Unfortunately, many individuals go undiagnosed for years.
At what age do symptoms appear?
The onset of HD typically strikes individuals in their most productive adult years, between the ages of 30 and 50 years old, but may appear as early as 2 and late as 70. Even within families the onset age of symptoms and the onset type of symptoms may vary.
Who is affected by HD?
Approximately 30,000 Americans have HD and 150,000 are at risk of inheriting HD from a parent. An individual who inherits the gene mutation will develop the disease. HD does not skip generations. It affects all races and ethnic groups. It affects both sexes. Each child of an HD-affected parent has a 50% chance of inheriting the disorder.
What are some of the characteristics/symptoms of HD?
- Personality changes, depression, anxiety, irritable and/or aggressive behavior, apathy, hallucinations, delusions, mood swings;
- Unsteady gait, dance-like movements, rigidity, abnormal eye movements, problems with balance and coordination;
- Slurred and/or slowed speech, difficulty swallowing;
- Slowed thinking and reaction time, difficulty planning and organizing, inflexible thinking, poor decision making skills, problems with short term memory;
- Intoxicated appearance due to a combination of the above symptoms.