Huntington’s disease (HD) is a genetic neurological disorder that causes the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain. A child of a parent with HD has a 50% chance of inheriting the mutated gene that causes it.
Symptoms may appear at any time, in infants or the elderly, but usually emerge when a person is in their 30’s or 40’s. Subtle mood problems and difficulty forming thoughts or controlling impulses may appear first, then lead to declining cognitive function sometimes including dementia. Depression, OCD, mania or bipolar disorder can also be associated with Huntington’s disease. The physical effects of HD begin with gait problems and slight uncontrolled motions, then grow in severity to include a loss of involuntary muscle coordination causing jerking or twisting movements, muscle rigidity, slow eye movement, difficulty speaking and weight loss. The progression of the disease eventually results in the need for complete dependence on others for care. Certain medications can help during different stages of the disease, but there is no known cure.
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The Movement Disorders Center of Northwell Health Neuroscience Institute improves lives by providing treatments for a wide range of neurological movement disorders and diseases.