What is Huntington’s disease (HD)?
HD is a rare neurodegenerative disorder of the central nervous system that stops parts of the brain working properly1. This brain damage gets progressively worse over time and is sadly usually fatal after a period of up to 10-25 years.
What causes HD?
Huntington’s disease is an inherited condition. It is caused by a faulty gene that results in parts of the brain becoming gradually damaged over time. An individual is usually only at risk of developing it if one of their parents has or had it. Both men and women can get Huntington’s disease.
What are the symptoms of HD?
The symptoms of Huntington’s disease vary widely between individuals; however, changes usually affect three main areas2:
- Cognition (perception, awareness, thinking, judgement)
Symptoms usually develop between the ages of 30-50 years, although they can start at any time. Once symptoms start, they usually get gradually worse. Early symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating and memory lapses
- Depression, including low mood, a lack of interest in things, and feelings of hopelessness
- Stumbling and clumsiness
- Mood swings, such as irritability or aggressive behaviour
“Huntington’s disease is an inherited condition. It is caused by a faulty gene that results in parts of the brain becoming gradually damaged over time.”
As the disorder progresses, individuals can experience:
- Chorea (involuntary jerking or fidgety movements of the limbs and body)
- Difficulty speaking clearly – eventually they may find all communication very difficult
- Swallowing difficulties
- Increasingly slow or rigid movements
- Personality changes
- Breathing problems
- Difficulty moving around – they may eventually lose the ability to walk or sit up by themselves
What postural challenges can result from Huntington’s disease?
NHS Choices (2018) Huntington’s disease Available from: www.nhs.uk/conditions/huntingtons-disease/
Huntington’s Disease Association (2018) Symptoms of Huntington’s disease Available from: www.hda.org.uk/huntingtons-disease/what-is-huntingtons-disease/symptoms-of-huntingtons-disease