Huntington’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that usually causes movement, cognitive and psychiatric disorders (most commonly depression) with a wide range of signs and symptoms. Which symptoms appear first varies greatly among affected people. Huntington’s typically sets in between 30 to 50 years of age but those diagnosed with Huntington’s can lead full lives for decades before they begin to feel or show effects.
Huntington’s is entirely genetic. It is caused by an inherited defect in a gene we all have; the huntingtin gene. While it is unclear how this defect relates to the symptoms of Huntington’s disease what is clear is that if an individual inherits this faulty gene, from even one of their parents, they will eventually develop Huntington’s disease.
As Huntington’s progresses those affected will begin to experience problems with their memory, movement control, and behavioural control. The cognitive issues eventually become very similar to other forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s disease, causing memory loss, disorientation, and agitation. This adds to the changes in behaviour, often causing depression, aggression, and paranoia. Balance, walking, and controlling movements eventually become impossible, forcing people with Huntington’s disease to become dependent on loved ones or professionals for care.