Munson Health
Huntington's Disease

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by Alan R

(Huntington Chorea; HD)



Symptoms most often develop between the ages of 30-50 years. Symptoms are mild at first and are often barely noticeable, but usually worsen over 15-20 years.
Abnormal body movements that worsen over time, may include:
  • Sudden jerks or uncontrolled movements of the limbs or trunk
  • Facial grimacing
  • Continuous need to turn head and shift gaze
  • Walking that is unsteady or dance-like
Gradual deterioration or loss of intellectual abilities may include:
  • Difficulty with eating and swallowing, which may result in weight loss
  • Difficulty dressing, sitting, and caring for oneself
  • Grunting or poor articulation of speech
Loss of intellectual and behavior problems may include:
Ultimately, HD can:
  • Cause the loss of the physical and mental ability to care for oneself
  • Cause severe disability, making full-time or nursing home care necessary
  • Result in death, often due to a fall or pneumonia


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history (including family medical history). A physical exam will be done. Blood tests can rule out other conditions. You may need to have imaging tests, which take pictures of internal body structures. Imaging tests include:
MRI Scan of the Brain
MRI of the Brain
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There is a test that can determine if a person has inherited the gene for HD. This test may help to make the diagnosis of HD. It may also help to determine if a person has inherited the HD gene before symptoms appear. Genetic counseling is recommended before taking this test to review risks and benefits.


Hereditary Disease Foundation

Huntington Disease Society of America



Health Canada

Huntington Society of Canada



A physician's guide to the management of Huntington's disease. Huntington's Disease Society of America website. Available at: Accessed July 19, 2013.

Fast facts about HD. Huntington's Disease Society of America website. Available at: Accessed July 19, 2013.

Frank S, Jankovic J. Advances in the pharmacological management of Huntington's disease. Drugs. 2010;70(5):561-571.

Huntington disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated May 31, 2013. Accessed July 19, 2013.

Mestre T, Ferreira J, Coelho MM, et al. Therapeutic interventions for symptomatic treatment in Huntington's disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;8(3):CD006456.

NINDS Huntington's Disease information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Updated April 24, 2013. Accessed July 19, 2013

Paulsen JS, Hoth KF, et al. Critical periods of suicide risk in Huntington's disease. Am J Psychiatry. 2005;163(4):725-731.

9/3/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: Wippold FJ, Cornelius RS, et al. American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria for dementia and movement disorders. Available at: Updated 2014. Accessed September 3, 2014.


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