About Huntington's disease
Huntington's disease is an autosomal, inherited disorder that affects behavior, cognition and motor control. It is an adult-onset genetic disease, passed from parent to child, and requires increasing assistance for the patient over the condition's 15- to 20-year progression. For every affected individual, there may be several more at risk, such as siblings or children who carry the gene, but don't yet exhibit the symptoms.
Symptoms and risks
Huntington's disease affects the entire family. The chances of a child receiving the abnormal gene from a parent are 50%. Every person who carries the gene will develop symptoms if they live long enough. These symptoms include:
- Changes in coordination, including involuntary movements, progressing to more pronounced coordination issues and muscle stiffness
- Difficulty thinking through problems
- Psychiatric issues, including irritability that might lead to depression
- Diminished speech
- Difficulty swallowing
In the later stages of the disease, patients are likely to be fully dependent upon a caregiver.
Diagnosis and treatment
The University of Kansas Health System offers movement disorder specialists who are entirely dedicated to diagnosing and treating movement disorders such as Huntington's disease. This specialized neurologist will evaluate aspects of the patient's life and medical history and perform a complete physical exam.
The evaluation includes:
- Behavior assessment
- Cognitive assessment
- Detailed family history
- Medical history
- Neurological exam
- Physical exam
- Psychological exam
There is no cure for Huntington's disease, but our care team focuses on helping patients and their loved ones cope with the diagnosis and management of the disease. Treatment options may include:
- Medications for movement or psychiatric disorders
- Counseling for patients and caregivers
- Speech therapy for improving the ability to speak or swallow
- Physical therapy for maintaining strength, flexibility, balance and coordination
- Occupational therapy to develop strategies for living at home with the disease
Leading research and clinical trials
Learn more about our leaders in Huntington's disease treatment and research.