The early symptoms of Huntington’s disease

The symptoms of Huntington’s disease usually develop when people are between 30-50 years old, although they can start much earlier or much later. The symptoms can also differ from person to person, even in the same family.

Sometimes, the symptoms are present for a long time before a diagnosis of Huntington’s disease is made. This is especially true when people are not aware that Huntington’s disease is in their family.

The early symptoms include:

  • slight, uncontrollable muscular movements
  • stumbling and clumsiness
  • lack of concentration
  • short-term memory lapses
  • depression
  • changes of mood, sometimes including aggressive or antisocial behaviour

Great strain is put on relationships if unexpected temper outbursts are directed towards the partner. The time before a diagnosis is made can be very confusing and frightening because people do not understand what is happening and why.

Some people who know they are at risk spend time searching for the first signs that they are developing the disease. They may worry about simple things like dropping a cup, forgetting a name or becoming unusually bad-tempered. Most people do these things occasionally - whether they are at risk from Huntington’s disease or not - so they could be worrying unnecessarily.

Anyone who is concerned should have a word with their GP who may refer them to a neurologist for tests. These tests could include a number of simple assessments and possibly a brain scan. The genetic tests mentioned above may also be used to aid diagnosis.

More information

The information contained on this page is available to download from our fact sheets page.

HDA fact sheets

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