Huntington’s disease

Alternative Names

Huntington chorea

Definition of Huntington’s disease

Huntington’s disease is a disorder passed down through families in which certain nerve cells in the brain waste away, or degenerate.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

American doctor George Huntington first described the disorder in 1872.

Symptoms

Behavior changes may occur before movement problems, and can include:

Signs and tests

The doctor will perform a physical exam and may ask questions about the patient’s family history and symptoms. A neurological exam will also be done. The doctor may see signs of:

Treatment

There is no cure for Huntington’s disease, and there is no known way to stop the disease from getting worse. The goal of treatment is to slow down the course of the disease and help the person function for as long and as comfortably as possible.

Expectations (prognosis)

Huntington’s disease causes disability that gets worse over time. Persons with this disease usually die within 15 to 20 years. The cause of death is often infection, although suicide is also common.

Review

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 6/24/2009

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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