13 Huntington’s Disease Symptoms

huntington's disease symptoms

Before getting a positive diagnosis for Huntington’s disease, you must showcase a couple of Huntington’s disease symptoms that the doctors will observe or test.

This helps the professionals to confirm whether or not you have developed the illness that causes progressive degeneration of brain nerve cells.

A majority of people with Huntington’s disease will start to develop these signs in their 30’s or 40’s even though the signs can start at any age from the early stages to old age.

Let’s look at some of the warning signs associated with Huntington’s disease below.

If you are also interested in learning what’s the best Huntington’s disease treatment, we made a comprehensive look into it for your convenience.

Common Huntington’s Disease Symptoms

1. Chorea

Huntington's disease symptoms
Huntington’s disease can make a person experience physical symptoms like random, uncontrollable, and jerky movements known as chorea. Initially, chorea is usually exhibited as restlessness, lack of coordination, uncompleted motions or abnormal eye movements.

After about three years, these minor motor abnormalities blow up to become noticeable motor dysfunction signs.

2. Depression

depression a symptom of Huntington's disease
If you are susceptible to Huntington’s disease, you may also experience depression as one of the early warning signs of the illness.

Depression is a serious illness that affects people in different ways. You might experience being in a low mood for extended periods.

Some people will feel like they are drowning in a sense of hopelessness while others will lack interest in the things they once loved. Body aches and pains, lack of appetite, fatigue, and bad sleeping patterns are other symptoms of depression.

3. Difficulties in Swallowing and Eating

Huntington's disease  creating difficulties in swallowing and eating
Problems with eating and swallowing are among Huntington’s disease symptoms.

A person goes through this when the muscles in the diaphragm and mouth cease to function properly.

Persons with these symptoms risk choking especially in the later stages. They also lose weight because they do not eat properly.

4. Personality Changes

personality changes due to Huntington's disease
Changes in personality are common with people who have Huntington’s disease. This is where a person becomes highly irritable, has mood swings, apathy, and anger outbursts.

Many people also become socially withdrawn where they want to spend time alone. Some even have frequent thoughts of suicide and dying.

5. Communication Problems

Huntington's disease communication problems
Issues with communication are prominent in persons with Huntington’s disease. They usually vary from person to another both in severity and nature.

One person may have a hard time initiating a conversation while another will struggle to find the right words to speak clearly.

Another communication problem that may arise is having difficulties understanding what people are saying.

6. Problems with Memory

problems with memory
Issues with memory also make part of Huntington’s disease symptoms. These affect both short-term and long-term memory.

A person may have trouble recalling memories of their lives.

Some experience deficits in procedural memory where they cannot remember how to perform a certain activity they could handle before.

The disease also affects working memory which is common in the later stages.

7. Emotional Changes

Huntington's disease emotional changes
Huntington’s disease can also affect how a person functions emotionally. In most cases, the emotional changes do not occur consistently but they alternate.

These can include stubbornness and lack of emotion. A person may be very happy one instant, and the next they are wallowing in sadness.

8. Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors

obsessive compulsive behaviours hd
This is another common symptom of Huntington’s disease. It is a disorder that features unwanted fears and thoughts that can lead a person to do repetitive behaviors also known as compulsions.

The compulsions and fears result in significant distress and can interfere with daily activities.

For example, a person can develop a fear of germs which makes them wash their hands over and over until they are chapped and sore.

9. Lack of Awareness

Huntington's disease causing a lack of awareness
Lack of awareness is worth mentioning when talking about Huntington’s disease symptoms. It is where a person lacks awareness of their abilities and behaviors.

This can make the affected person not see mistakes that are evident to those around them.

Most people with the illness will refute the fact that they have Huntington’s disease.

10. Difficulty Organizing

difficulty organizing
Having problems with organization is another symptom that relates to Huntington’s disease. This affects functions like planning, rule acquisition, and initiation of appropriate actions.

A person may become disoriented because the illness affects their ability to make the right decisions.

The ability to multi-task also becomes difficult because a person has trouble concentrating on more than one task.

11. Diminished Visual Partial Ability

diminished visual partial ability
Another symptom of Huntington’s disease worth mentioning is diminished visual-spatial ability.

This is where a person is not able to perceive the position of their body in an environment.

It can result in having difficulties with things like following directions or reading a map properly.

12. Seizures

Some people with Huntington’s disease will also develop other medical conditions like seizures.

These can be described as uncontrolled and sudden electrical brain disturbances. It can lead to changes in behavior, feelings, levels of consciousness, and movement.

A majority of seizures will last between 30 seconds and two minutes although they vary in severity from person to person.

The seizures are normally associated with temporary confusion, loss of awareness, staring spell, uncontrollable jerking movements of legs and arms, and emotional symptoms like anxiety or fear.

13. Clumsiness

Clumsiness also goes on the record as one of the common Huntington’s disease symptoms. It can be defined as poor coordination, action, or movement.

This is where you might find that a person is always dropping things and bumping into furniture.

Their risk of falling also becomes intensified. While this might be a minor issue for most people, it can be profound a well where you increase the risk of severe injuries or accidents such as concussions.

Closing Remarks

If you notice that you have any Huntington’s disease symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

This is because some of the symptoms of Huntington’s disease are caused by a wide range of conditions.

Proper diagnosis helps you know how to best manage the progressive disease seeing that currently, there is no treatment to reverse or stop the illness.

Keep in mind that in the later stages of the disease, affected individuals may need full-time nursing care as completing day to day activities becomes extremely difficult.

Huntington’s Disease Treatment – Best Approach

huntington's disease treatment

Researchers continue to put in the effort to come up with effective Huntington’s disease treatment options.

Currently, there is no cure for this progressive neurodegenerative disorder.

Nonetheless, there are some approved therapies that help to manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for people who have Huntington’s disease (HD).

Check out some of these approved therapies that people with HD can benefit from below.

Huntington’s Disease Treatment Options


Huntington's disease treatment
If you have Huntington’s disease, your doctor may prescribe some medications that can help to manage some of the symptoms you suffer from.

A majority of the medications people use for Huntington’s disease symptoms work by modulating neurotransmitters or the chemical messages that move between neurons.

Some of the drugs that can help with movement disorders include:


This is one of the drugs that medics give people who have movement issues like chorea. It has been approved by the EU in 2008 to suppress involuntary writhing and jerking movements.

Antipsychotic Drug

Medicines like chlorpromazine, haloperidol, quetiapine, and risperidone may also help to suppress involuntary movements.

Other Medications

Clonazepam, levetiracetam, and amantadine are other examples of medicines that can help deal with chorea.

Drugs for psychiatric disorders

drugs for psychiatric disorders
There are several medications like antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood-stabilizing medicines that a person with HD can take to treat psychiatric issues depending on the symptoms and specific disorders.

Note that some of the above medications have severe side effects like making the illness or symptoms worse, triggering depression and other psychiatric conditions, nausea, restlessness, drowsiness, skin discoloration, or leg swelling amongst others.

Drugs like clonazepam also have a high risk of abuse and dependence. This is why is important to follow the doctor’s directives when taking the medication.

Avoid self-medicating and report and serious side effects to your GP to see if there is a need to change the current medication.

Physical Therapy

physical therapy treatment for Huntington's disease
When exploring Huntington’s disease treatment options, you may need to work with a professional physical therapist.

The specialist will recommend some non-medication and non-invasive ways that you can use to manage physical symptoms.

The expert will guide you on safe and appropriate exercises that can improve coordination, strength, balance, and flexibility.

These are beneficial because they can enhance the mobility of your body and reduce the risk of falls.

Note that it is extremely vital for anyone with HD to remain physically fit as long as the course of the illness permits.

People who remain active do better than the ones who don’t. Getting instructions on the proper use of supports and appropriate posture can also help to reduce the seriousness of movement disorders.

Additionally, professionals can also help with airway clearance techniques and breathing exercises if you have any respiratory issues.

The experts can also help with stretching and moving your joints as well as relaxing massages.

Speech and Language Therapy

Huntington's disease speech and language therapy
If you have Huntington’s disease and have trouble with speaking, it is wise to consult a language and speech therapists.

The expert can help you learn alternative communication ways like the use of picture charts or electronic speech devices.

This helps improve your communication abilities so that you can remain active in family and community life for the longest possible time.

The therapists may also address any problems you may have with the muscles for swallowing and eating.

Working with Dieticians

working with dieticians
At some point, you may also need to work with a dietician to help with Huntington’s disease treatment. The professional will offer advice on the right diet that will ensure you do not end up losing too much weight.

Proper nutrition is crucial because there are some people with HD that burn thousands of calories a day due to involuntary movements. They, therefore need to eat more meals to have the necessary calories.

Dieticians can also offer guidance on practical ways to make food easier to chew and swallow. Some foods may require to be thinned while others need thickeners so that the weak person can eat well.

When serious problems arise, swallowing therapy exercises can help because it combines direct treatment strategies and compensatory techniques that can enhance oral intake safety by decreasing aspiration risks to maintain quality of life.

Occupational Therapy

occupational therapy for Huntington's disease
Because many people who have HD develop memory and concentration issues, occupational therapy is an important part of the Huntington’s disease treatment process.

The therapists can help come up with effective strategies for coping with memory and concentration problems. They can also help develop solutions that can make the home safer for persons with HD.

These can include assistive devices for daily activities like dressing, handrails in the house, and drinking and eating utensils specifically designed for individuals with limited fine motor skills.

In a bid to make your life easier, the therapists can also recommend the use of voice-controlled lights or software on your PC.

Experimental Therapies

experimental therapies
Away from the approved therapies that help with HD symptoms, experts have recognized other avenues to explore in regards to Huntington’s disease treatment.

A majority of these are already in the clinical trial stages while others are still in the development stage.

An example is gene silencing therapies that seek to decrease the levels of toxic HTT proteins that are produced. If successful, these will not only manage the symptoms, but they will also help to slow the progression of the illness.

Neuroprotective therapies are also being developed to curb neuroinflammation that damages and kills brain cells.

Soon, these may be added to the list of approved therapies for treating HD.

Huntington’s Disease Treatment Closing Thoughts

Despite the fact that there is no Huntington’s disease treatment, several approved therapies can help manage a majority of the symptoms associated with the illness.

What’s more, is that research is also ongoing studying the mechanisms of HD something that might result in the development of innovative new treatments.

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