Huntington's disease is an inherited disease
of the brain that damages certain brain cells.
The disease damages some of the nerve cells in the brain, causing
deterioration and gradual loss of function of these areas of the brain.
This can affect movement, cognition (perception, awareness, thinking,
judgement) and behaviour.
Early symptoms can include personality changes, mood swings and unusual
behaviour, although these are often overlooked and attributed to
Huntington's disease was originally called Huntington's chorea, after
the Greek word for dancing. This is because the associated involuntary
movements of the condition can look like jerky dancing.
In the majority of cases, Huntington's disease is caused by an inherited
faulty gene. However, in around 3% of cases there is no family history
of the disease.
There is no cure for Huntington's disease and its progress cannot be
reversed or slowed down.
As the condition progresses, it may put a strain on family and
relationships. Treatments for Huntington's disease aim to help improve
or maintain skills used in daily living that can deteriorate over time.
Medication can manage some of the symptoms, such as irritability or
excessive movement. Therapies such as speech and language therapy and
occupational therapy can help with communication and day-to-day living.
Generally, the disease progresses and gets worse for around 10 to 20
years. In the later stages of Huntington's disease, the person will be
totally dependent and will need full nursing care.
Both men and women with a family history of Huntington's can inherit the
disease. Symptoms usually start to appear during adulthood.
Juvenile (children's) Huntington's disease develops before the age of
20. Only 5-10% of people with Huntington's develop the condition at a
very young age, and the pattern of features may be different.
It was previously thought that 4-6 people in a population of 100,000
were affected by Huntington's disease. However, UK research carried out
in 2012 has found the actual figure for those affected by the condition
to be about 12 people per 100,000.
It is thought the number of people who have the Huntington's gene and
are not yet affected is twice that of those who have symptoms.
• LOCAL SUPPORT available via CMHT at Vista Road 01925 291094, and
Merseyside regional office of Huntington's Disease Society 0151 353 8099
• www.hda.org.uk - Fact Sheets available,
and news and info on disease