Symptoms of HD
The onset of symptoms typically occurs in middle adulthood (35-50 yrs of age) but may develop at any age. There is no specific order in which the symptoms present and they will vary between individuals and family members. For example some people may have significantly impaired movements and balance but may only be experiencing minor cognitive impairment.
HD will often see the presentation of physical symptoms including small changes in coordination and involuntary movements. Physical symptoms are the most recognisable and can include the following:
- Involuntary movements
- Impaired balance & coordination
- Swallowing difficulties
- Slurred speech & impaired communication
HD can affect normal responses to everyday situations. Some of the following psychological changes might be experienced:
- Depression & anxiety
- Obsessive compulsive behaviour
- Personality changes
Unlike the physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms are harder to identify without a fomal cognitive assessment. HD progressively impairs cognitive function which can result in the following:
- Memory difficulties
- Impaired thinking, planning & organising tasks
- Rigidity in thought patterns
- Impulsive & disinhibited behaviours
- Perseveration (a fixation on a thought, idea or feeling)
The practice of 'symptom watching' is common. Symptom watching occurs when people are carefully noting all their actions and behaviours and associating them with symptoms of HD. Symptom watching is a natural and understandable response to being at risk of HD. Many of the symptoms of HD such as fumbling, moodiness or forgetfulness are also experienced by the general population not at risk of HD.
This practice is normal but if you feel that it is having a negative impact on your life, it's important to seek professional advice through your local HD Association.