Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder which is caused by an expanded gene in a person’s DNA. Everybody has the gene that causes Huntington’s disease, but people that develop the condition have a longer version of the gene. It is that expansion which causes the gene not to work properly and eventually causes people to develop the condition.
Huntington’s disease is also a ‘neurodegenerative disorder’. But what does neurodegenerative disorder actually mean?! Well, if you break it down, neuro means ‘nerve’ and degenerative means something that gradually gets worse. Disorder is another word for a condition, or disease. So when people say Huntington’s is a neurodegenerative disorder, they are saying that Huntington’s is a condition which affects the nervous system and gradually gets worse over time. This means the condition affects the cells of our brains and continues to cause damage as time progresses which stops the brain and body from working as well as they used to.
As a result, people develop symptoms of Huntington’s disease. These symptoms can be divided into three main types:
- Movement: symptoms that affect their movements, for example they have involuntary movements and problems with balance and walking.
- Cognitive: symptoms that affect their thinking and memory
- Behavioral: symptoms that affect their behavior, for example making them angry or sad, or making them act a certain way that isn’t how they usually act.