Huntington's Disease

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Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a disease that affects the brain and causes unsteady and uncontrollable movements in the hands, feet, and face, and mental illness symptoms. People who have HD develop abnormal movements that eventually affect such activities as walking, talking, and swallowing.

HD is an inherited disease; a parent passes it to his or her child, if the child inherits the parent's mutation.

What are the symptoms of Huntington’s Disease?

Huntington’s Disease affects a person both physically and mentally. One of the first physical symptoms is a muscular twitching called chorea. Chorea is derived from the Greek word for dance and is best described as slow, dance-like movements that may affect the limbs, torso, and face.

Physical problems may start out in small ways—for example, clumsiness or losing balance—and then get worse over time. Chorea can make speaking, eating, and walking more difficult, and may also affect the person’s ability to perform daily functions, such as driving. These individuals are also at greater risk for falls. Rarely, HD patients may develop a condition called akinesia, where their movements are slow and they experience stiffness.

The early mental signs of HD include increased irritability, mood swings, depression, or anger. Over time, patients with HD may develop problems with memory. Sometimes, these mental changes precede physical signs for years.

HD is a progressive disease; this means that it gets worse over time, and movement and everyday activities become harder and harder. Depending on the person’s age, he or she may suffer with HD for up to 30 years.

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