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Huntington's Disease

What is Huntingtons disease?


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January 24, 2017 10:17PM

Huntington's disease (know as HD) is a fatal neurological disease. It results from genetically programmed degeneration of brain cells in certain areas of the brain.

It is a brain disorder usually appearing in mid-life but it can also strike in teenage years. HD results in emotional disturbance, uncontrolled movements, and loss of intellectual ability. A faulty gene causes this disease. The faulty gene runs in families. The faulty gene is passed from parent to child through the mutation of a normal gene. Whether one child inherits the gene will have no bearing on whether other children in the family will inherit the gene. If you have one parent with Huntington's disease, you have a 1 in 2 chance of inheriting the faulty gene. A person who has HD usually first develops symptoms that seem out of character.

Early symptoms include:

  • Mood swings
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Mood changes
  • Mild tremor
  • Clumsiness
  • Depression
  • Lack of concentration
  • Irritability
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Trouble driving a car
  • Increasing difficulty learning new things

Concentrating or focusing on intellectual tasks becomes more difficult as the disease progresses; symptoms of the disease worsen over time. Eventually a person with HD may have difficulty feeding and swallowing. Scientists are still researching how the faulty gene causes the disease. At this time (2011-03-20), there is no known way to reverse or stop the course of HD. However, research continues and in recent years scientists have made a number of breakthroughs in this area. At this time, HD is generally fatal within 20 years of symptoms first appearing, but I think that future research will bring a more positive prognosis.