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Huntington’s Disease – Causes and Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is an inherited disorder in which the nerve cells of brain degenerate. The symptoms usually appear in the middle age. It is characterized by difficulty in balancing, clumsiness, uncontrollable movements. The child has a 50% chance of inheriting the disorder if any one of the parent has the disease condition.

It is observed that Huntington’s disease is common among western Europeans than Asians and Africans. The disease is named after the physician, George Huntington who discovered this disease in 1872. It is estimated that about 3 to 7 in 100,000 individuals are affected in Western Europe.

Causes of Huntington’s Disease
Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder. It is caused as a result of defect on 4th chromosome. A section of DNA on this particular chromosome is repeated many times than the normal repeat. This gene when it passes on to the next generation, the repeats increase. This makes the symptoms to develop at an earlier stage. Hence, as the disease passes through generations, the repeats increase and symptoms too start developing at an younger stage.

Huntington’s disease is of two forms.

  • Adult-onset form – Common form of the disease. Symptoms develop at the age of 30s and 40s.
  • Early-onset form – Rare form of the disease. Symptoms develop in childhood or adolescence and resemble those of Parkinson’s disease.

There are 50% chances of inheriting the disease condition if either of the child’s parent has the defective gene. If a child receives the gene from any parent, the disease symptoms may start at any point of the time.

Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease
Huntington’s disease is associated with a wide range of symptoms. The signs and symptoms are enlisted below.
Behavioural changes include:

  • Psychosis i.e loss of contact with reality and false beliefs
  • Paranoia i.e suspicious beliefs
  • Restlessness
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Superstitious beliefs

Abnormal movements include:

  • Unsteady gait
  • Jerking movements of face, legs and arms
  • Slow movements
  • Facial movements
  • Head turning aside to eye position

Dementia symptoms include:

  • Memory loss
  • State of confusion
  • Personality changes
  • Speech changes
  • Loss of judgement

Rare symptoms associated with Huntington’s disease:

  • Speech impairment
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Stress
  • Anxiety

Symptoms in Children include:

  • Tremor
  • Slow movements
  • Rigidity

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