What is Huntington’s disease?
Huntington’s disease is a rare, progressive brain disorder. It gradually kills nerve cells in the brain. This slowly deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities. The disease is genetic, which means it is inherited from your parents. There is no cure, and it is fatal.
People are born with the defective gene that causes the disease. But symptoms usually don’t appear until middle age. Most cases of Huntington’s disease are diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50. There is also an early-onset form of the disease called juvenile Huntington’s disease. It affects people under age 20.
Symptoms of Huntington’s disease
There are many symptoms of Huntington’s disease. Early signs include:
- Poor coordination
- Small involuntary body movements
- Trouble making decisions
- Trouble learning new information
As the disease progresses and gets worse, you may experience:
- Jerking or twitching movements you can’t control (called chorea)
- Trouble walking, speaking, and swallowing
- Changes in personality
- Decline in thinking and reasoning abilities
- Significant weight loss
In young people, symptoms include being unsteady on your feet, rigid muscles, slurred speech, and seizures. As thinking and reasoning abilities get worse, school performance also gets worse. Juvenile Huntington’s disease tends to progress faster than the adult-onset form of the disease.