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Huntington's Disease (HD) is an inherited and progressively degenerative brain disorder that results in a loss of both mental faculties and physical control. There are 30,000 persons in the U.S. currently diagnosed with HD and another 250,000 at risk. Each child of an HD parent has a 50% chance of developing the disease.
HD is a family disease, not just because it is inherited from a parent, but also because it profoundly affects the entire family unit emotionally, socially, and financially. HD, like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, takes a person away from their loved ones and the rest of the world long before they die.
HD typically begins in mid-life, between the ages of 30 and 50, though onset may occur as early as two and as late as 80. Children who develop the juvenile form of the disease rarely live to adulthood. It is characterized by a loss of neurons in certain regions of the brain and progressively affects a sufferers cognition, personality and motor skills. In its later stages, sufferers almost certainly require continual nursing care. Secondary diseases, such as choking or pneumonia are the actual cause of death, rather than the disease itself.
The good news is that researchers are working hard to find a cure and we should never lose hope that this disease can be conquered. Until there is a cure we must care for ourselves and each other and invest as much as we can in research and outreach to our communities.
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