Huntington's disease (HD) is a hereditary degenerative brain disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, loss of intellectual faculties and emotional disturbances. Huntington's disease profoundly affects the emotional, social and economic lives of patients and their families. Early symptoms include a decrease of cognitive ability and mobility, impairments in independence, mood swings, involuntary twitching and lack of coordination. As the disease progresses, patients' concentration, memory, and involuntary movements worsen. Eventually patients' ability to walk, speak, and swallow are affected, and they become dependent on others for care. Symptoms usually evolve slowly and vary from person to person.
Typically, Huntington's disease begins in midlife (30 to 45 years) and affects men and women equally. The average lifespan after onset is 10 to 20 years. Huntington's disease is an autosomal dominant hereditary disease; therefore, each child of a person with Huntington's disease has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Huntington's disease is diagnosed by detailed medical and neurological history and by genetic testing. There is no effective way to cure the disease or to slow its progression. People with Huntington's disease frequently receive medication to control their emotional and movement problems. It is important to maintain physical fitness because some evidence suggests that exercise can improve the condition of patients with Huntington's disease.
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