What are the different stages of Huntington's disease?

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The initial symptoms of Huntington's Disease manifest as mild physical changes and potentially cognitive or emotional alterations, gradually progressing to the advanced stage of the disease.

The different stages:

Early stage of Huntington's disease:

A clinical diagnosis of Huntington's Disease is based on the presence of involuntary movements. Initially, this may involve a state of restlessness, signs of impatience, jerky hand and foot movements, or excessive agitation.

Affected individuals may notice some clumsiness, changes in their handwriting, or difficulties in performing daily activities such as driving. The early physical symptoms of Huntington's Disease are often accompanied by mild cognitive impairments.

These can include difficulties in organizing daily activities or adapting to new situations. Some affected individuals may exhibit poor memory and require more time to complete their work tasks. Their decision-making ability and attention begin to decline, which may lead to considerations of assisted living for older individuals.

Early emotional symptoms can also be subtle:

  • Prolonged periods of depression

  • Apathy

  • Irritability

  • Impulsivity

Occasional personality changes

  • At this stage, individuals affected by Huntington's Disease are still generally able to function normally at home and work.

Intermediate stage of Huntington's disease:

As the disease progresses, symptoms intensify. The physical symptoms observed in the early stage gradually transform into more pronounced involuntary movements, such as tics and jerky movements of the head, neck, arms, and legs (chorea). These movements are accompanied by difficulties in walking, speaking, and swallowing.

At this stage of Huntington's Disease, affected individuals often appear as if they are intoxicated, with unsteady walking and slurred speech. They experience increasing difficulty with work and household tasks but can still manage most daily activities.

Advanced stage of Huntington's disease:

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In the advanced stage, involuntary movements become less frequent, and the limbs become stiffer. Affected individuals are no longer able to perform daily activities and typically require professional assistance, either at home or in a care facility. They often experience difficulty swallowing, communicating, and weight loss.

Death usually occurs 15 to 20 years after the onset of the disease. However, death is not directly caused by Huntington's Disease but rather by its complications, such as suffocation, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, or other infections.

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