Huntington's disease can cause a wide range of symptoms, including problems with mental health, behaviour, movement and communication.

The symptoms usually start at 30 to 50 years of age, but can begin earlier than this (juvenile Huntington's disease) or much later.

Once they start, the symptoms usually get gradually worse.

Early symptoms

The first symptoms of Huntington's disease often include:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • memory lapses
  • depression – including low mood, a lack of interest in things, and feelings of hopelessness
  • stumbling and clumsiness
  • mood swings, such as irritability or aggressive behaviour

See your GP if you're worried you might have early symptoms of Huntington's disease, especially if you have a history of the condition in your family.

Lots of things can cause these symptoms, so it's a good idea to get them checked.

Your GP may suggest having a test for Huntington's disease.

Later problems

Over time, someone with Huntington's disease may develop:

  • involuntary jerking or fidgety movements of the limbs and body
  • difficulty speaking clearly – eventually they may find all communication very difficult
  • swallowing problems – they may choke on food and get lung infections (pneumonia) from food going down the wrong way
  • increasingly slow or rigid movements
  • personality changes – sometimes they may change so they don't seem like their former self at all
  • breathing problems
  • difficulty moving around – they may eventually lose the ability to walk or sit up by themselves

In the later stages, people with Huntington's disease find daily activities increasingly difficult and will need full-time nursing care.

Read more about treatment and support for Huntington's disease.

Page last reviewed: 13/02/2018
Next review due: 13/02/2021