Huntington's Disease

Huntington's disease is a disorder in which nerve cells in the brain progressively die. It is genetic and affects the mind, body and emotions of 30,000 people in the United States. We offer advanced resources to help patients with Huntington's disease manage symptoms and optimize their quality of life.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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
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Nationally ranked
Our neurology and neurosurgery program ranked No. 27 on U.S. News & World Report's 2019-20 Best Hospitals list.
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Genetic testing
We're 1 of only 2 facilities in Kansas that tests for the Huntington's disease gene.
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Interdisciplinary care
We provide comprehensive care to support patients over time.
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Turning Point

Turning Point offers free classes, programs and tools designed to empower and educate people affected by chronic or serious illness.

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Our experts

Learn more about our leaders in Huntington's disease treatment and research.

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Leading research and clinical trials

We collaborate closely with the University of Kansas Medical Center to realize the power of academic medicine. Here at the health system, we deliver advanced patient care. The researchers at the medical center conduct industry-leading clinical trials and explore leading-edge innovation.
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