Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain and deteriorates a person's physical and mental abilities.

Overview and Symptoms

Most people with HD develop symptoms in their 30s or 40s, but may also appear earlier or later in life. This condition usually causes movement, cognitive and psychiatric symptoms that vary greatly among affected people. During the course of the disease, some disorders appear to be more dominant or have a greater effect on functional ability. This may include:

  • Involuntary jerking
  • Muscle problems, such as rigidity or dystonia
  • Slow or abnormal eye movements
  • Difficulty with speech or swallowing
  • Difficulty organizing, prioritizing or focusing on tasks
  • Slowness in processing thoughts or "finding" words
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Feelings of irritability, sadness or apathy
  • Depression
  • Fatigue and loss of energy

A preliminary diagnosis of Huntington's disease is based primarily on a general physical exam, a review of your family's medical history, and neurological and psychiatric examinations. Your doctor may also recommend brain-imaging tests for assessing the structure or function of the brain, or a genetic test to confirm a defective gene.

Treatment

There is no cure for Huntington's disease, but treatment can lessen some movement and psychiatric symptoms. At BIDMC, our multidisciplinary team works together with you and your family to offer innovative and compassionate care to meet your physical, cognitive and emotional needs. This may include a combination of medications, speech therapy, physical therapy, nutrition consults and more.

Learn More

The Huntington's Disease Program is part of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center at BIDMC, providing excellence in diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, dystonia, tremors, atypical parkinsonism, chorea, myoclonus, ataxia, and various other movement disorders.

Huntington's Disease Program