Huntingtons Disease

Huntington's Disease Image

Huntington’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects both the body and mind. Huntington’s disease causes the death of cells in specific areas deep inside the brain. It is called Huntington’s disease because an American physician named George Huntington was the first to describe it in 1872.

A hereditary disease, Huntington’s disease affects 1 in every 10,000 individuals. It is a dominantly inherited disease, meaning that if a child has one parent who is affected, that child will have a fifty percent chance of also developing Huntington’s disease.

The cause of Huntington’s disease is still not fully understood. What is known about Huntington’s disease is that it occurs due to mutations in a single gene coding for a protein called huntingtin. How this mutation causes the death of nerve cells in the brain is still under investigation.

Huntington’s Symptoms

Patients with Huntington’s disease typically begin to exhibit symptoms between the ages of 35 and 50, but the onset of Huntington’s disease can occur any time from childhood on. A characteristic symptom of Huntington’s disease is a jerky, involuntary movement that is sometimes referred to as Huntington’s chorea. Huntington’s disease patients also undergo personality changes, depression and progressive loss of mental capacity to the point of dementia and mental retardation.

Huntington’s disease causes progressively worsening symptoms. Infection is a typical cause of death among Huntington’s disease patients. Suicide is also common.

Huntington’s disease research is advancing quickly, but currently no cures for Huntington’s disease exist. Some treatment options are available that will alleviate some symptoms and delay the progression of the disease. Treatment includes medications, speech therapy, and caregiver emotional and physical support.