Huntington’s disease warning signs: What are the early symptoms? 4 early signs

Emmerdale: Lydia is told she doesn't have Huntington's Disease

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Huntington’s disease is an illness caused by a faulty gene in one’s DNA. Those suffering with the condition see it impacts the body’s nervous system. The disease affects men and women and symptoms usually appear when individuals are aged 30 to 50. Express.co.uk has compiled a list of the early warning signs for the condition.

Huntington’s disease is a progressive brain disorder which is caused by a defective gene.

It is caused by a single defective gene on chromosome four, one of the 23 human chromosomes which carry a person’s entire genetic code.

The condition causes changes in the central area of your brain which can impact movement, mood and thinking skills.

The defect is dominant which means anyone who inherits it from a parent with Huntington’s will eventually develop the disease.

Huntington’s will gradually worsen over time and is usually fatal after a period of up to 20 years.

The condition is incurable and has a wide range of impacts including movement, thinking and mood.

It affects three to seven people in every 100,000 of European ancestry.

According to Genetics Home Reference, the rate of developing the disorder is less common in those of Japanese, Chinese and African descent.

What are the early symptoms of Huntington’s disease?

The first signs normally appear between the ages of 30 and 50 years.

But they can also start much earlier or later, with new cases as early as two years old and as late as 80 years old reported.

Some symptoms appear more dominant or have a greater effect on functional ability, but that can change throughout the course of the disease.

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Behavioural changes

The disease often manifests with symptoms relating to changes in mood.

In particular, this can appear as depression, anxiety, uncharacteristic anger and irritability.

Another common symptom is obsessive-compulsive behaviour such as a person repeating the same question or activity over and over.

You can also experience a low mood, a lack of interest in things and feelings of hopelessness.

Cognitive/judgement changes

The condition causes a decline in thinking and reasoning skills, including memory, concentration, judgement and ability to plan and organise.

Memory lapses are a common sign of this disease early on.

Trouble with driving, problem-solving and decision-making may be included in the early stages of the disease.

You may also suffer issues prioritising tasks and have difficulty organising or learning new skills.

Remembering facts, putting thoughts into words and answering questions may also be more difficult.

Familiar tasks which were simple and easy when healthy may begin to become challenging as the disease begins to impact sufferers.

Uncontrolled and difficult movement

The hallmark symptom of Huntington’s disease is uncontrolled movement of the arms, legs, head, face and upper body.

Stumbling and clumsiness is also an early sign of this condition.

The movement disorders associated with Huntington’s disease can include involuntary jerking or writhing, muscle problems such as rigidity, slow or abnormal eye movements, impaired gait, posture or balance, difficulty with speech or swallowing.

Physical changes

Speech may become slurred and you may have issues with other vital functions such as swallowing.

Eating, speaking and walking may become more difficult and likely continue to decline.

Insomnia and a loss of energy and fatigue are also early warning signs of the condition.

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