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Huntington's disease

  • Alternative Names

    Huntington chorea


    Symptoms

    Behavior changes may occur before movement problems, and can include:

    • Antisocial behaviors
    • Hallucinations
    • Irritability
    • Moodiness
    • Restlessness or fidgeting
    • Paranoia
    • Psychosis

    Abnormal and unusual movements include:

    • Head turning to shift eye position
    • Facial movements, including grimaces
    • Slow, uncontrolled movements
    • Quick, sudden, sometimes wild jerking movements of the arms, legs, face, and other body parts
    • Unsteady gait

    Dementia that slowly gets worse, including:

    • Loss of memory
    • Loss of judgment
    • Speech changes
    • Personality changes
    • Disorientation or confusion

    Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:

    • Anxiety, stress, and tension
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Speech impairment

    Symptoms in children:

    • Rigidity
    • Slow movements
    • Tremor

    Signs and tests

    The doctor will perform a physical exam and may ask questions about the patient's family history and symptoms. A neurological exam will also be done. The doctor may see signs of:

    • Dementia
    • Abnormal movements
    • Abnormal reflexes
    • "Prancing" and wide walk
    • Hesitant speech or poor enunciation

    A head CT scan may show loss of brain tissue, especially deep in the brain.

    Other tests that may show signs of Huntington's disease include:

    • Head MRI scan
    • PET (isotope) scan of the brain

    DNA marker studies may be available to determine whether you carry the gene for Huntington's disease.