Huntington’s Disease

Learn about the rare genetic brain disorder Huntington’s chorea, and its subtypes: adult-onset Huntington’s disease and early-onset Huntington’s disease, and the care that's available at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

Huntington’s disease, also called Huntington’s chorea, is a rare genetic brain disorder in which brain cells or neurons in the specific brain regions start to break down. As the neurons degenerate, the disease can lead to emotional disturbances, loss of intellectual abilities and uncontrolled chorea movements.

Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder: It is passed on from parents to children. If a parent has Huntington’s disease, a child has a 50 percent chance of developing it. If the child doesn’t have the gene to develop the disease, his or her children won’t inherit it. More than 15,000 Americans currently have Huntington’s disease. 

If you have the Huntington’s disease gene, you will develop the disease at some point in life. The age of onset of Huntington’s disease varies greatly from person to person, but most people develop it in middle adulthood.

Signs of Huntington’s disease

Symptoms include involuntary rapid, jerky movements and the gradual loss of mental abilities leading to personality changes, behavior problems, and memory loss. 

Huntington’s disease has two subtypes:

  • Adult-onset Huntington’s disease is the most common form. People typically develop the symptoms in their 30s or 40s.
  • Early-onset Huntington’s disease occurs in children or adolescents and is rare. Children with the disease tend to experience abrupt difficulties with schoolwork and often have symptoms that could be similar to those of Parkinson’s disease.

There is no known cure for Huntington’s disease. Treatment with medications may help control the involuntary movements and other symptoms. 

The doctors, nurses and support staff at Lehigh Valley Health Network's Neuroscience Center are prepared to help you and your family understand your condition. We provide a comprehensive approach to meeting your needs by coordinating a team that analyzes various aspects of your care.