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Huntington's Disease

Huntington's disease is a hereditary, degenerative brain disease that leads to uncontrolled movements, intellectual/cognitive decline, and emotional problems. Researchers have identified the gene that causes Huntington's disease, and are examining how it affects the brain and other ways of controlling human function.

A child has a 50-50 chance of inheriting the defective gene from a parent with Huntington's disease. The genetic mutation associated with Huntington's disease often expands from generation to generation. Thus, children who inherit the gene are likely to develop a more severe form of the disease at an earlier age. However, in some cases, the disease does not occur in people who inherit the gene.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Early symptoms include mood swings, irritability, and depression. People with Huntington's disease may have difficulty driving, learning new things, or making decisions. Eventually, people with Huntington's disease face greater difficulty thinking, self-feeding, and swallowing.

Huntington's disease can be diagnosed with a genetic test, as well as a medical and neurological examination. People who may carry the Huntington's disease gene may undergo presymptomatic testing.

Treatment

There is no cure for Huntington's disease, although some medications can control the emotional symptoms and movement problems associated with the disease. In addition, exercise and other activities have been shown to improve outcomes for people with Huntington's disease.

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