What's Huntington's disease?
Huntington's disease (HD) is a devastating, degenerative brain disorder for which there is, at present, no effective treatment or cure. HD slowly diminishes the affected individual’s ability to walk, think, talk and reason. Eventually, the person with HD becomes totally dependent upon others for his or her care. Huntington’s Disease profoundly affects the
lives of entire families: emotionally, socially and economically.
Huntington's results from genetically programmed degeneration of nerve cells, called neurons, in certain areas of the brain. Degeneration causes uncontrolled movements, loss of intellectual faculties, and emotional disturbance. Symptoms most commonly begin between the ages of 35-50, although onset can occur in young and old people. Huntington's Disease research is rapidly progressing but there is not yet a cure. Huntington's disease affects three main areas of function: motor, mood, and cognition. Motor disturbances can fall into two categories: too much movement and too little movement. Chorea (involuntary dance-like movements) can affect any part of the body. It is commonly seen as restless, wriggling movements of the fingers or toes in the early stages of the disease. Movements tend to become larger over time and can involve the face, arms, trunk and legs. Chorea may appear more pronounced when an individual is under stress or experiencing an extreme of emotion. It tends to lessen in the later stages of HD. Rigidity or muscle stiffness and slowness may also be present. This is more common when onset occurs in childhood or adolescence and also in more advanced disease. Both chorea and rigidity can interfere with mobility and coordination.