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Huntington Chorea Symptoms & Diagnosis

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Huntington Chorea Guide

Alison Beaver

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Symptoms

Symptoms are mild at first and are often barely noticeable, but usually worsen over 15-20 years.

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Abnormal body movements that worsen over time, including:
    • 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
  • Difficulty with eating, dressing, sitting, and caring for oneself
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Grunting or poor articulation of speech
  • Weight Loss

Intellectual and emotional symptoms may include:

  • Trouble with attention and awareness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Loss of memory
  • Loss of judgment
  • Loss of ability to think rationally
  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Depression (common)
  • Anxiety
  • Social withdrawal or antisocial behavior
  • Irresponsible behavior
  • Obsessive-compulsive behavior
  • Personality changes
  • Psychosis—a severe emotional and behavioral disorder that often interferes with a person's ability to relate to others and to function in daily life
  • Paranoia—a mental disorder that involves feelings of being watched, followed, or harmed by others
  • Hallucinations—the perception of a thing or person that is not present

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

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history (including family medical history), and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:

  • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the brain
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the brain
  • PET scan —a test that uses radioactive isotopes (substances that are absorbed by certain areas of the brain) to assess brain function

CT Scan of the Head

CT Scan of the Head
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

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, before symptoms appear, if a person has inherited the HD gene. Genetic counseling is recommended before taking this test to review risks and benefits.

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