Neurology Conditions

Huntington's Disease

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.

Diagnosing Huntington's Disease

The Emory Clinic Movement Disorders Center is a Huntington's Disease Society of America (HDSA) Center of Excellence.  We offer a broad range of resources related to prediction of developing and diagnosis of HD.  There are several highly skilled, compassionate physicians who are knowledgeable in diagnosing HD.  Additionally, we have a dedicated HD genetic counselor who can discuss the risks of inheritance and options for genetic testing and family planning.  Clinicians are able to predict if an at-risk person will develop HD by drawing blood to look for an increased number of repeats within the huntingtin gene.

Huntington's Disease Treatment

Our movement disorders neurologists are highly trained to analyze the nature of a patient's condition to help design an effective treatment plan.  At this time, there is no cure that can alter the progressive course of HD.  However, there is a great deal of exciting research that may make the discovery of a cure for HD a reality in the future.  In addition the movement disorders clinic is now offering patients the opportunity to conduct follow-up visits through telemedicine from the comfort of their homes or at our LaGrange practice.

Why Choose Emory?

The HDSA Center of Excellence at Emory was the first such center established. It boasts one of the largest Huntington's disease clinics in the world and treats close to 150 patients yearly. The Emory HD team has also been part of the Huntington Study Group since its inception 25 years ago and actively participates in ongoing clinical research trials focusing on Huntington's disease. In addition to a dedicated HD genetic counselor, the clinic also has a dedicated movement disorders social worker who can help with resources and questions regarding disability, care options, etc.

Our mission is propelled by active research into the underlying mechanisms of Huntington's disease in the laboratory to develop novel therapies to improve the care of our patients.