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Early Symptoms of Huntington's Disease

author image Rae Uddin
Rae Uddin has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2004. She specializes in scientific journalism and medical and technical writing. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Uddin earned her Master of Science in integrated biomedical sciences with an emphasis in molecular and cellular biochemistry from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Early Symptoms of Huntington's Disease
Woman looking confused sitting at cafe table. Photo Credit JackF/iStock/Getty Images


Huntington's disease is genetic disorder characterized by the progressive degradation of nerves within the brain. At least 15,000 people within the United States currently have Huntington's disease, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Patients who develop any of the early symptoms of Huntington's disease should speak with a physician for further evaluation and care.

Personality Changes

Patients with this condition can develop sudden or significant personality changes as an early symptom of Huntington's disease. Affected patients can become unusually irritable or depressed, or may experience severe mood swings. These early Huntington's disease symptoms can negatively affect a patient's social, work and familial relationships. Patients who experience sudden personality changes should seek additional care from a medical professional immediately.

Decreased Cognitive Abilities

During the early stage of this disease, the nerves within the brain, called neurons, may begin to malfunction. As a result, patients with Huntington's disease can exhibit cognitive deficits as a symptom of this condition. Affected patients may have difficulty making decisions or performing newly learned tasks. Certain patients may appear forgetful or struggle to answer questions during normal conversations, warns MayoClinic.com. These early symptoms of Huntington's disease can be frustrating or overwhelming to both the patient and family or friends. Patients who experience sudden or unusual cognitive changes should speak with a medical professional for further care.

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Balance Problems

Poor neuron function can affect a patient's ability to move about normally. As a result, patients with Huntington's disease can develop balance problems as an early symptom. Affected patients may appear unstable or require assistance while standing or walking.

Jerking or Twitching

Patients with Huntington's disease can develop unusual, involuntary jerking or twitching of the body--a condition called chorea--as an early symptom, reports Genetics Home Reference, an informational website on genetic conditions that is supported by the National Institutes of Health. These uncontrolled movements can affect any region of the body, including the face, arms or legs. Patients who develop these early Huntington's disease symptoms should speak with a medical provider immediately.

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