Genetic Testing for HD

People at-risk for the disease face a difficult choice about genetic testing for HD, given the current absence of an effective treatment or cure. Many people see no benefit in knowing that they will someday develop the disease. Others want an end to uncertainty so that they can make informed choices about the future. The decision whether to test or not is intensely personal and there is no “right” answer.

The Huntington’s Disease Society of America recommends that at risk individuals who are considering genetic testing do so at a genetic testing center that follows the HDSA guidelines. Testing procedures at these centers involves sessions with professionals who are knowledgeable about HD and the local services available. It may take several weeks to receive the results once the genetic test is complete.

Genetic testing for children is typically prohibited before the age of 18, as the child may not understand the full implications of testing and may be vulnerable to pressure from others. However, a child under the age of 18 may be tested to confirm a diagnosis of juvenile onset HD after a thorough neurological exam.

Prenatal Planning

For families wishing to have a child who does not have the gene that causes HD, there are a few options. Pre-genetic diagnostic (PGD) testing can be used with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to make sure that any fertilized egg implanted does not have the abnormal gene. This can be done without informing the at-risk patient whether or not they have the gene that causes HD. If a woman is already pregnant, she can receive testing for the fetus with a chorionic villus biopsy at 10-11 weeks or via amniocentesis at 14-18 weeks.