Huntington’s disease (HD) is a hereditary degenerative brain disorder. As the disease progresses, it causes involuntary movements (chorea) and slowly diminishes the person’s ability to walk, talk and move effectively. The disease also affects the person’s ability to think and reason. Many other symptoms also take a toll on patients with Huntington’s disease, as well as their families.
Because Huntington’s disease is hereditary, only those individuals with a direct family history of the disease can inherit the gene responsible (although rare spontaneous mutations have been reported). The disease affects approximately 4 to 8 individuals out of every 100,000 in the United States. The onset of the disease usually occurs between the ages of 35 and 55. In very rare cases children as young as 2 years of age and people as old as 80 will develop symptoms of the disease. Approximately an equal number of men and women are affected.
From a hereditary perspective, a child with one parent who has the disease has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the gene that causes the disorder. Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of developing the disease. In most cases, a straightforward genetic test can conclusively prove whether a person has the gene. However, most people at risk of having inherited the gene choose not to undergo the test, preferring not to know because there is at present no cure for the disease.
Huntington’s disease experts at the UC Neuroscience Institute are constantly informed of emerging research and findings. Because there is yet no cure, treatment of the disease means treating the symptoms to support the patient’s and family’s quality of life.
If you think that you or a loved one might be exhibiting some of the symptoms of Huntington’s disease and would like to make an appointment with a movement disorders specialist, please call (513) 475-8730.