Huntington's disease is a condition caused by a faulty brain damaging gene that stops parts of the brain working properly over time. Huntington’s is not something you can catch; it is inherited. Every child conceived naturally to a parent who carries the Huntington’s gene has a 50% chance of inheriting it. (HAD. 2018) A genetic test can find out if you have the faulty gene. You can live with the faulty gene for years without symptoms, but if you do have it, at some stage you will develop symptoms. Doctors cannot tell you when this will be. It gets gradually worse over time and is usually fatal after a period of up to 20 years.

Huntington’s disease affects men and women. It usually develops between the ages of 30 and 50 but can start at any age. If you develop symptoms before the age of 20, this is known as Juvenile Huntington’s disease. (HDA. 2018)

Very occasionally, it's possible to develop Huntington's disease without having a history of it in your family. But this is usually just because one of your parents was never diagnosed with it.

Symptoms of Huntington's disease can include:

  • difficulty concentrating and memory lapses
  • depression
  • stumbling and clumsiness
  • involuntary jerking or fidgety movements of the limbs and body
  • mood swings and personality changes
  • problems swallowing, speaking and breathing
  • difficulty moving (NHS 2018)

Huntington's disease has no cure and progression cannot be stopped. However, therapy, medicine and support can help lessen some of the difficulties it causes, such as:

  • medicines for depression, mood swings and involuntary movements
  • occupational therapy to help make everyday tasks easier
  • speech and language therapy for feeding and communication problems
  • physiotherapy to help with movement and balance