What is Huntington's disease?

Huntington’s disease is an illness caused by a faulty gene in your DNA (the biological ‘instructions’ you inherit which tell your cells what to do). If you have Huntington’s, it affects your body’s nervous system – the network of nerve tissues in the brain and spinal cord that co-ordinate your body’s activities.

Huntington’s can cause changes with movement, learning, thinking and emotions. Once symptoms begin, the disease gradually progresses, so living with it means having to adapt to change, taking one day at a time.

Living with Huntington’s disease can be very challenging. Getting the right information and support is vital and we’re here to help.

Some facts about Huntington’s:

  • Huntington’s is not something you can catch; it is inherited. Every child conceived naturally to a parent who carries the Huntington’s gene has a 50% chance of inheriting it.
  • A genetic test can find out if you have the faulty gene.
  • You can live with the faulty gene for years without symptoms, but if you do have it, at some stage you will develop symptoms. Doctors cannot tell you when this will be.
  • Huntington’s disease affects men and women. It usually develops between the ages of 30 and 50, but can start at any age. If you develop symptoms before the age of 20, this is known as Juvenile Huntington’s disease.

Although there is, as yet, no cure, you can learn to manage symptoms more effectively to improve your quality of life.

Read more about Huntington's disease

What causes Huntington's disease?

Huntington’s disease is a genetic disease, which means if you have it, you inherited it from one or both of your parents. It is caused by a hereditary fault on a specific gene.

Symptoms of Huntington's disease

The symptoms of Huntington’s disease vary widely between people. Even people in the same family may be affected differently. However, changes usually affect three main areas: movement; cognitive and behaviour.

What is Juvenile Huntington's disease?

Juvenile Huntington’s is quite rare. Less than 10% of people with the disease will have Juvenile-onset. This can make dealing with it quite an isolating experience for you and your family, and meeting others in the same situation can help.

Getting help

Although there is currently no cure, there are many ways to get help with the symptoms and challenges of living with Huntington’s disease.