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Huntington's Disease

Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal condition typically characterized by involuntary movements and dementia. The disease is caused by genetically programmed degeneration of brain cells, called neurons, in certain areas of the brain. This causes uncontrolled movements, loss of intellectual faculties and emotional disturbance. The disease is a hereditary disorder passed on by a parent to child through a mutation in a gene.

In the United States, Huntington's disease occurs in about one of every 10,000 to 20,000 people. It affects males and females equally and crosses all ethnic and racial boundaries. Typically, symptoms begin between age 30 and 55.

Children of parents with Huntington's disease have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the HD gene. If a child does not inherit the gene, he or she won't develop the disease and can't pass it on. A person who inherits the HD gene will eventually develop the disease.

Whether a child inherits the gene has no bearing on whether other siblings will or won't inherit the gene. In 1 to 3 percent of individuals with HD, there is no family history of the disease.

At this time, there is no cure or treatment to reverse the course of the disease. UCSF specialists are studying the Huntington's disease gene to better understand how to treat the condition.

Our Approach to Huntington's Disease

We provide comprehensive treatment plans for patients living with Huntington's disease, as well as genetic counseling and testing for families at risk for this genetic brain disorder. With the goal of giving patients the best possible quality of life, our team also coordinates services such as symptom management, physical therapy, psychiatric care and palliative care. Our researchers are studying better ways to treat HD, and we offer patients opportunities to participate in this research through clinical trials.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-neurology

    Best in California and No. 2 in the nation for neurology & neurosurgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.