What is Huntington’s Disease?

Huntington’s disease is a genetic, progressive neurodegenerative disorder that damages neurons in the brain, affecting a major part of the central nervous system.

  • Genetic – it is a disease that is inherited through DNA from the parents of the sufferer.
  • Progressive – means that it is a disease that gets worse over time.
  • Neurodegenerative – means it is an illness involving the death of certain parts of the brain.

In Huntington’s disease, toxic proteins are formed due to faulty genes getting accumulated in the brain, which in turn causes damage to neurons leading to neurological symptoms. It impacts a person’s physical and mental abilities over time, and usually starts to present itself between the ages of 30 to 50. It normally gets worse over a period of about 10 to 25 years, at which point it is often fatal.

Effects of Huntington’s Disease

The symptoms of Huntington’s Disease are significant and can be distressing for those living with the condition and for their loved ones. Symptoms can include:

  • Loss of mobility and capacity to move
  • Challenges with concentrating and memory lapses
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Difficulty walking including stumbling and clumsiness
  • Involuntary movements that may appear jerky
  • Fidgeting and involuntary movements of the limbs and body
  • Personality changes and mood swings
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Problems speaking causing slurred speech
  • Issues with breathing
  • Difficulty moving

Treatment and support

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Huntington’s disease and no way to slow or disrupt its progress. However, there are some treatments that can manage some of the symptoms:

  • Medicines that will help with depression and mood swings
  • Medication to assist with the involuntary movements
  • Occupational therapy to help with completing daily tasks
  • SALT (Speech and Language Therapy) to improve speech and swallowing
  • Physiotherapy to help with the issues surrounding movement, mobility and balance

Read more about treatment and support for Huntington’s disease.

Further information and advice

Living with Huntington’s disease can be very distressing and frustrating for the person with the condition, as well as their loved ones and carers. You may find The Huntington’s Disease Association a useful source of information and support.

They offer:

For more information or if you wish to discuss care for your loved one please email care@greensleeves.org.uk