Chorea is an involuntary movement disorder belonging to a group of neurological disorders called dyskinesias, which are caused by overactivity of dopamine in areas of the brain related to movement. Brief, irregular contractions are a hallmark of chorea. Chorea is often secondary to other conditions, such as Huntington’s disease, rheumatic fever, metabolic and endocrine disorders, vascular insults and treatment with certain medications. Chorea may also co-occur with athetosis. Athetosis involves slow, continuous, and involuntary writing movements that disrupt stable posture. These movements are smooth and don’t appear to be composed of movement fragments. Unlike chorea, athetosis may involve the same regions of the body. Athetosis may worsen with movement but can also occur while at rest. When athetosis and chorea co-occur, the resulting condition is called choreoathetosis.

Symptoms of Chorea:

  • Brief, dancelike jerking and rhythmic movements
  • Sudden muscle contractions
  • Movements that are abrupt and unpredictable

Treatment for Chorea:

  • Medications
  • Treatment of the primary cause of chorea
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Physical/occupational therapy

Symptoms of Athetosis:

  • Random and unpredictable muscle movement
  • Slow, involuntary, writhing muscle movements
  • Worsening symptoms with attempts to control movement or improve posture
  • Difficulty standing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Uncontrolled movement in one muscle group while trying to control another

Treatment for Athetosis:

  • Medications
  • Injection of botulinum toxin
  • Physical/occupational therapy

For both chorea and athetosis, as well as the co-occurring choreoathetosis, treatment and prognosis are dependent on the underlying condition and severity. For information about treatments options available at Kennedy Krieger Institute, please call the number below or click the request an appointment button. 

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