For support and further information, you can contact your regional branch of the Huntington's Disease Associations of New Zealand, as follows:

Jo Dysart
Freephone 0800 HD AUCK (0800 432 825)
Phone 09 815 9703  or o27 432 8255      

Cheryl Standring
Phone 07 571 6898
Belinda Boyce
Phone 03 578 4058   or  027 255 1299      

Judith Baker
Phone 03 312 5612  
Diane Collins
Phone 03 960 5913      
Ann Wilson (Field Worker)
03 327 7898  or 021 023 07343       

Zena Pigden
Phone 03 476 6044  ext 5485

Cheryl Morley
Phone 06 868 8878  or 027 686 9432      

Tracy Hobbs
Phone 07 834 4745   or  027 385 5425      

Viv Gillan
Phone 03 218 3975      

Tanya Jeffcoat
Phone 06 845 1616       

Pam Grey
Phone 03 544 6386   

Karen Evans 
Phone  06 213 0307  or 027 496 6500      

Loree Adam
Phone  07 348 4267      
Alison J Whitfield, RN
Phone  07 346 1830    or  027 627 7621      

Lesley Brown 
Phone 04 235 5091      
Jeanette Wiggins
Phone 04 569 3252    or  021 344 445      

Heather Creagh - Field Officer
Phone 03 768 7320  or 027 675 3778      

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What is Huntington's Disease?

Huntington's disease (HD) results from genetically programmed degeneration of brain cells, called neurons, in certain areas of the brain. This degeneration causes uncontrolled movements, loss of intellectual faculties, and emotional disturbance. 

HD is a familial disease, passed from parent to child through a mutation in the normal gene. Each child of an HD parent has a 50-50 chance of inheriting the HD gene. If a child does not inherit the HD gene, he or she will not develop the disease and cannot pass it to subsequent generations. A person who inherits the HD gene will sooner or later develop the disease. Whether one child inherits the gene has no bearing on whether others will or will not inherit the gene. 

Some early symptoms of HD are mood swings, depression, irritability or trouble driving, learning new things, remembering a fact, or making a decision. Irregular involuntary jerky movements (chorea) gradually become more troublesome. As the disease progresses over a matter of years, concentration on intellectual tasks becomes increasingly difficult and the patient may have difficulty feeding himself or herself and swallowing. The rate of disease progression and the age of onset vary from person to person. The genetic test, coupled with a complete medical history and neurological and laboratory tests, is the basis for the diagnosis of HD. Presymptomatic testing is available for individuals who are at risk for carrying the HD gene. In 1 to 3 per cent of individuals with HD, no family history of HD can be found.

Is there any treatment?

Physicians prescribe a number of medications to help control emotional and movement problems associated with HD. Tetrabenazine can control the choreiform involuntary movements.It is extremely important for people with HD to maintain physical fitness as much as possible, as individuals who exercise and keep active tend to do better than those who do not.

What is the prognosis?

At this time, there is no way to stop or reverse the course of HD. Now that the HD gene has been located, investigators are continuing to study the HD gene with an eye toward understanding how it causes disease in the human body.

What research is being done?

Scientific investigations using electronic and other technologies enable scientists to see what the defective gene does to various structures in the brain and how it affects the body's chemistry and metabolism. Laboratory animals are being bred in the hope of duplicating the clinical features of HD so that researchers can learn more about the symptoms and progression of HD. Investigators are implanting foetal tissue in rodents and nonhuman primates with the hope of understanding, restoring, or replacing functions typically lost by neuronal degeneration in individuals with HD. Related areas of investigation include excitotoxicity (over-stimulation of cells by natural chemicals found in the brain), defective energy metabolism (a defect in the mitochondria), oxidative stress (normal metabolic activity in the brain that produces toxic compounds called free radicals), tropic factors (natural chemical substances found in the human body that may protect against cell death).

The material on this page “Disorders – Huntington’s” has been sourced from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke -

For more information on what services are available to you please see our "Things you should know about" page which includes the following: