After the onset of Huntington's disease, a person's functional abilities gradually worsen over time. The rate of disease progression and duration varies. The time from disease onset to death is often about 10 to 30 years. Juvenile onset usually results in death within 10 years.
The clinical depression associated with Huntington's disease may increase the risk of suicide. Some research suggests that the greater risk of suicide occurs before a diagnosis is made and in middle stages of the disease when a person has begun to lose independence.
Eventually, a person with Huntington's disease requires help with all activities of daily living and care. Late in the disease, he or she will likely be confined to a bed and unable to speak. However, he or she is generally able to understand language and has an awareness of family and friends.
Common causes of death include:
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- Pneumonia or other infections
- Injuries related to falls
- Complications related to the inability to swallow
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- Huntington's disease: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/huntington/huntington.htm. Accessed Jan. 27, 2014.
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- Huntington disease. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic_disorders/movement_and_cerebellar_disorders/huntington_disease.html. Accessed Jan. 29, 2014.
- Huntington's disease: A family guide. Huntington's Disease Society of America. http://www.hdsa.org/living-with-huntingtons/publications/index.html. Accessed Jan. 29, 2014.
- Novak MJ, et al. Huntington's disease. British Medical Journal. 2010;340:c3109.
- Suchowersky O. Huntington disease: Management. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 29, 2014.
- Bower JH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 5, 2014.
- Knopman DS (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 5, 2014.
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