Huntington's disease is a hereditary progressive neurological disorder that affects approximately 30,000 people in the United States. It most often affects people between 30 and 50 years old, but can occur at any age, including children and elderly. It progresses to a debilitating state over 5-20 years. The disease is ultimately fatal.
Huntington's disease symptoms include:
- Involuntary movements called chorea
- Walking abnormalities with falling
- Psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety and psychosis
- Cognitive decline (dementia)
Huntington's disease is caused by a mutation in the gene, huntingtin. Patients with HD possess an increased number of copies (CAG repeats) of part of this gene. The gene is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion. This means children of a person with HD have a 50% chance of inheriting it. Other first-degree relatives (siblings, parents) of a person with HD also have a 50% chance of having the disease.