Duration of illness in Huntington's disease is not related to age at onset.
The age at onset and duration of illness were studied in patients with Huntington's disease in the Leiden Roster which at 1 July 1990 contained 2787 patients. Of 1106 patients, 800 deceased and 306 alive, the age at onset was known. The median duration was 16.2 (range 2-45) years. In contrast to the current opinion, the median duration was independent of the age of onset. The median duration in juvenile Huntington's disease was 17.1 years, which is much longer than reported in the literature, and comparable with the categories for the age of onset of 20-34 and 35-49 years. Only in the group where onset was over 50 years of age was the median duration somewhat shorter (15.6 years), which can be ascribed to unrelated causes of death. As age of onset and duration of illness are not related, at least two mechanisms to determine the clinical course have to be postulated: one for age of onset and another for duration of illness. Duration was shorter for males, especially for those with an affected father.