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Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is an inherited progressive disorder that affects movement, cognition, and behavior.  The hallmark symptom of Huntington’s disease is chorea, uncontrollable and often painful involuntary movement.

The cognitive and behavioral symptoms of dementia due to Huntington’s include depression, memory problems, impaired judgment, problems with short-term memory, organizing, coping, and concentrating.  Delusions and hallucinations may occur.  Symptoms that may also occur are irritability, anxiety, aggressive outbursts and social withdrawal.

Huntington’s disease does not skip generations.  Each child of a parent with Huntington’s has a 50% chance of inheriting the defective gene.  If a child does not inherit the gene, he or she cannot pass it on.  If the child does inherit the gene, he or she can pass it on and will develop the disease.

The average lifespan after onset is 10 to 25 years, and the younger the age of onset, the more rapid the progression of the disease.  Symptoms generally appear between the ages of 30 and 50, but can strike children and young adults.

The discovery of the Huntingtin gene has made possible a predictive test for Huntington’s disease from a blood sample allowing those at risk to find out whether or not they will develop the disease.  Pre-and post-test counseling is critical.  This testing may also pave the way to clinical trials of preventative therapies.

For more information about Huntington’s disease, visit our affiliated support group organization, UCI HD-CARE.