How Huntington’s affects your body

If you have Huntington’s, it means you have a faulty version of the gene responsible for producing a protein that helps nerve cells (neurons) in certain parts of the brain to develop before birth. If you have a faulty version of the gene, the protein it produces in fact damages these neurons instead of developing them. This causes them to function poorly and reduce in number over time.

The parts of the brain affected include the areas called the basal ganglia and cerebral cortex. These inter-connected areas are associated with different types of activity including movement, learning, thinking, planning, motivation and emotion. As the cells in these parts of the brain reduce in number, changes occur in how they function, resulting in the various symptoms of Huntington’s.

Changes you may experience in your body:

  • You may start to lose weight, even though you have a good appetite. This may be due to a combination of factors, including difficulties with chewing and swallowing, and the increased energy used by the body due to involuntary movements. A referral to a dietician or a speech therapist can help with issues related to eating and swallowing.
  • If you have Huntington’s, you may eventually experience changes in your muscles. They may become more rigid over time, resulting in a slowing down of your movements. Physiotherapy can be very helpful to ease stiffness and maintain movement for as long as possible.

The ways Huntington’s affects the body are often different for different people, which means the symptoms you experience may also not be the same as other people’s, and they will change over time. Having care that fits your needs and adapts to changes you experience will make a huge difference. Getting the right information and support is vital and we’re here to help.