Physical Symptoms

Huntington’s disease causes a number of physical changes to an individual which impacts their ability to be independently mobile without support. The most recognisable symptom is the jerky uncontrolled movements of the arms, legs, head, face and upper body. These movements can also be referred to as ‘chorea’. 

The physical symptoms can be experienced by an individual in different ways and these can include:


Impaired balance & coordination

The presentation of involuntary movements (also known as Huntington’s Chorea) can directly impact an individual’s balance and coordination.  This can place the individual at risk of being unsteady on their feet which can lead to either unexpected falls, knocking objects over or bumping into things accidentally. If this occurs in public, it can lead to misunderstandings by my members of the community that are unaware of Huntington’s disease. It is important to remember that this is not your fault, and if you feel comfortable to do so, please explain to those around you that you have Huntington’s disease or reach out to Huntington’s Victoria for assistance. Over time, involuntary movements will increase and further impact your balance and coordination. We would recommend consulting with your medical specialist in relation management options (i.e.) medications and/or allied health assessments for access to appropriate mobility aids

Swallowing difficulties

Involuntary movements are internal as well as external for individuals. Huntington’s disease impacts the functionality of muscle strength, range and movement which is essential in the process of eating, drinking and swallowing. As a result of these changes, an individual can experience difficulties with swallowing which can be demonstrated with incidence of coughing while eating during mealtimes.

Slurred speech & impaired communication

With the death of brain cells in the frontal regions of the brain, Huntington’s disease causes a loss of coordination in the throat muscles (dysarthria). The throat muscles are responsible for our ability to speak clearly and control changes in speech so as they become weakened, it causes the individual to speak with slurred words and inconsistencies in speech volume.

Weight loss

The occurrence of constant involuntary movement is the equivalent of exercising non-stop. For an individual with Huntington’s disease, this circumstance proves problematic as there is often an imbalance with calorie intake versus energy expenditure. As a result, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy weight due to insufficient calorie intake.


As symptoms progress, people may experience urinary and/or faecal incontinence. This can be caused by either (1) a lack of nerve communication informing someone of their need to go or (2) an inability due to involuntary movements to make it to the toilet in time.

Impaired Muscle Control

The loss of muscle control can be distressing for not only for the individual experiencing it but for their loved ones. This can be demonstrated through rigidity making fine motor skills such as dressing yourself or holding onto object such as a pen a challenge. The inflexibility of body and facial muscles can lead to misunderstandings as the individual may appear as uninterested or annoyed.