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Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of HD are widespread and can vary from person to person. Generally, symptoms become more severe as the disease progresses. Some common symptoms include:

Physical symptoms:

  • Chorea (rapid, involuntary movements of the fingers, limbs and facial muscles). This varies in severity from mild twitching to more severe thrashing as the disease progresses
  • Reduced saccadic motion of the eyes (rapid movement of the eye used to focus from one object to another)
  • Loss of motor coordination and fine motor movements e.g. difficulty writing.

Cognitive effects:

  • Reduced short-term memory
  • Concentration impairment
  • Difficulty with communication e.g. slow, slurred speech; difficulty in finding words; disorganised speech and sentence construction.

Behavioural/personality changes:

  • Change in personal hygiene and habits
  • Unusually anxious behaviour
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Depression, particularly in later stages.

A number of complications can arise in late-stage HD including:

  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) resulting in weight loss and increased risk of choking
  • Increased risk of respiratory disease such as pneumonia
  • Incontinence and other urinary tract problems e.g. infections
  • Falls and difficulty walking requiring the use of assist devices e.g. wheelchairs.

Last Review Date: March 1, 2018