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 something else.

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

• - Fact Sheets available, and news and info on disease




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