Subscribe to illnesses and disabilities email updates.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a disorder in which certain nerve cells in your brain die. It is caused by a single defective gene. The loss of nerve cells produces uncontrolled movements, behavior changes, and problems with thinking. Early symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Trouble driving
- Problems remembering, learning new things, or making a decision
Symptoms get worse over time. The disease can reach the point where swallowing, eating, speaking, and walking become very hard. Some people cannot recognize friends or family members.
HD has no cure. The age of symptom onset and how fast the disease progresses vary from person to person. But medicines can help treat HD symptoms, including involuntary movement. If you have HD, it is very important to stay physically active as long as possible. Those who exercise and stay active tend to do better than those who do not.
If you have a parent with HD, you have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the defective gene that causes HD. You can take a blood test to see if you have the gene. If you want to get the test, go to a center with experience in counseling people at risk for Huntington's disease.
Explore other publications and websites
Huntington's Disease — This publication provides an overview of Huntington's disease. It explains what it is, what the symptoms and treatments are, and where to obtain additional resources.
Huntington's Disease (Copyright © Mayo Foundation) — This publication gives an overview of Huntington’s disease. It lists the signs, symptoms, causes, and risk factors. It also provides information regarding screening and diagnosis, complications, treatment, self-care, coping skills, and family planning issues.
Huntington's Disease: Hope Through Research — This booklet presents information about Huntington's disease, what it is, how to diagnose and treat it, and what research is being conducted.
Learning About Huntington's Disease — This publication explains the role genetics plays in Huntington's disease. It gives information on tests to detect it, clinical research, and a list of additional resources.
Lifestyle and HD: An Introduction to Life Practices That Promote Health (Copyright © Huntington's Outreach Project for Education at Standford) — This website provides basic information about living with Huntington’s disease (HD), and also links to more specific information on topics such as exercise, stress, mental acuity, and driving with HD.
Overview of Huntington's Disease (Copyright © WE MOVE) — This publication explains what Huntington’s disease (HD) is and gives information on who gets it, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and how HD progresses. It also provides sources for additional information.
The HDL Triad: Fallacies About HD (Copyright © HD Lighthouse) — Getting a Huntington’s disease diagnosis doesn’t mean you can’t live a high quality life. The “HDL Triad” will help you live your life as healthfully as possible by incorporating diet, exercise, and stress reduction.
Connect with other organizations
Hereditary Disease Foundation
Huntington’s Disease Society of America
National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH, HHS
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH, HHS
Content last updated September 22, 2009.
Resources last updated September 22, 2009.
A federal government website managed by the Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
200 Independence Avenue, S.W. • Washington, DC 20201