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What is Huntington's Disease

Posted on November 17, 2017 at 4:10 PM

Huntington’s Disease Overview

Huntington’s disease is an inherited disease that breaks down nerve cells in the brain. This disease has a wide range of impacts on a person’s functional abilities like walking, thinking, and psychiatric disorders. Most people believe the disease will develop signs in their later years such as the 30-40 year range. However, it can develop as early as their 20s. This condition is called juvenile Huntington’s disease. The earlier the signs begin to surface for this disease the faster the disease progression will be.

Symptoms

Huntington’s disease usually results in cognitive, movement, and psychiatric disorders with a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms. This disease affects everyone differently so there is no way in telling which symptom will appear first.

1. Movement Disorders- The movement disorders that are a result of Huntington’s disease involve both voluntary and involuntary movements. Some examples include:

• Involuntary jerking or writing movements

• Muscle Problems

• Slow eye movement

• Bad posture and balance

• Problems with speech or swallowing

Please note that voluntary movements unlike involuntary movements may have a greater impact on a person’s ability to work, perform daily activities, communicate, and stay independent.

2. Cognitive Disorders- Impairments include:

• Trouble organizing or focusing on tasks at hand

• Lack of flexibility, always getting stuck on a thought or action

• No self control, resulting in outbursts and acting without thinking

• Difficult to learn new information

• Taking a while to process thoughts or words

3. Psychiatric Disorders- The most common psychiatric disorder that comes with Huntington’s disease is depression. Depression appears to occur because of the injury to the brain and the subsequent changes in the brain’s functioning. Symptoms include:

• Feelings of sadness or apathy

• Loss of energy

• Social withdrawal

Other common psychiatric disorders:

• Obsessive-compulsive disorder- a condition marked by unwelcoming thoughts and repetitive behaviors

• Mania- can cause elevated mood, impulsive behavior

• Bipolar Disorder- condition where there are alternating episodes of depression and mania

4. Symptoms of juvenile Huntington’s Disease

• Loss of previously learned physical skills (sports) or academic skills

• Drop in academic performance

• Behavioral problems (Are you noticing them getting in trouble a lot more?)

• Seizures

• Tremors or slight involuntary movements

• Changes in motor skills such as handwriting

From https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/huntingtons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20356117 © 2017

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