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Chorea: What Is It and Why Does It Occur?

Chorea refers to involuntary and sudden movements that cannot be controlled. We’ll explain which diseases may cause it and what could be done about it here.

The word ‘chorea’ is used to explain a neurological symptom that accompanies certain diseases. This term comes from the Greek choreia which translates as ‘dance’. It’s defined as a sudden, involuntary, and short-lived movement in some a part of the body.



It normally affects the hands or face; for instance, it occurs when an individual moves his hand unconsciously, as if she or he were going to hit something. As that is something that can’t be controlled, this tends to affect the standard of lifetime of those that suffer from it.

In itself, this can be a condition related to diseases reminiscent of rheumatic fever or Huntington’s disease, although they will not be its only causes. In this text, we’ll explain the whole lot you might want to learn about chorea and why it occurs.

What’s chorea?

Chorea is the medical term used to consult with rapid, involuntary, and jerky movements that typically occur within the distal portion of the limbs or within the face. Nevertheless, the trunk may also be affected.

As explained in a publication within the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke the movements on this condition are unpredictable. They alter from one area of the body to a different, without following any sequence.

It normally appears as a consequence of lesions in certain brain areas, reminiscent of the caudate nucleus or the putamen. It isn’t a disease, but a clinical manifestation or symptom of other health disorders. Due to this fact, it’s not considered life-threatening in itself.

Nevertheless, because it normally occurs within the context of other pathologies, it could constitute a risk. Thus, depending on its cause, chorea could be temporary or not. Sometimes, it’s maintained and worsens progressively.

For instance, that is what happens in Huntington’s disease. It can also be accompanied by two other characteristic movements.

  • Firstly, it could also be related to ballismus’. This term refers to more intense movements, reminiscent of throwing an arm sharply and concisely.
  • It might probably even be related to athetosis. On this case, what appears are slow movements, also uncontrollable. These resemble sustained wringing of the hands or limbs.

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The symptoms of chorea

Chorea normally produces involuntary movements of the limbs. Spasms of the limbs are also common. As there isn’t any pattern and it’s unpredictable, these occur at different places within the body.

Based on a publication of the Clínica Universidad Navarra, at the start of the symptoms, people only experience nervous tics or excessive agitation. Nevertheless, as the image progresses, the movements turn into more intense and marked.

Due to this fact, jerks of the top, extremities, or neck appear. These movements can interfere with the person’s each day life. It is because they have a tendency to cause difficulties in speaking, interacting, walking, or eating.

Furthermore, the mood also deteriorates. Chorea often produces abrupt mood changes. It’s common for an individual with this condition to be apathetic, irritable, depressed, or aggressive. Cognitive functions are progressively impaired. Hence, memory or pondering could also be affected.

Chorea may occur within the context of diverse pathologies. They are often classified in accordance with whether or not they are acquired or hereditary. Throughout the hereditary ones, the foremost cause is Huntington’s disease.

This represents a genetic disorder that is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. That’s, just one copy of the defective gene is required for the disease to look. On this disease, chorea is usually accompanied by personality disorders and speech problems.

Symptoms worsen progressively and, on average, patients have a life expectancy of 10 to 30 years when the manifestations appear. Unfortunately, there isn’t any cure for Huntington’s disease.

Chorea may also occur as a complication of rheumatic fever. This, in turn, is a complication of a bacterial infection (group A streptococcus). It’s common in children who’ve had streptococcal pharyngitis.

Other infections could also be associated, reminiscent of syphilis, Lyme disease or toxoplasmosis. Autoimmune diseases, reminiscent of systemic lupus erythematosus, may also cause it. The identical applies to multiple sclerosis or sarcoidosis.

Finally, endocrine disorders must be highlighted. Probably the most common ones related to chorea are hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, thyroid problems, and hypocalcemia.

Like this text? You might also wish to read: 5 Keys to Calming a Restless Mind and Finding Internal Peace

Causes and risk aspects for chorea

Chorea is usually a symptom of one other disorder. As a Cleveland Clinic article explains, an estimated 30,000 people in the USA alone suffer from Huntington’s disease. Furthermore, there are roughly 4000 cases of Sydenham’s chorea per 12 months.

The incidence of Sydenham’s chorea itself is unknown. Nevertheless, cerebral vascular lesions are one among its most vital causes. This explains why roughly 56 patients out of each 1,500 who’ve suffered a stroke eventually develop it.

To differentiate the reason behind this disorder, it’s useful to have a look at whether it presents acutely or progressively. Acute onset cases are often attributable to a toxic substance or a drug. For instance, levodopa to treat Parkinson’s disease or neuroleptics.

Meanwhile, as mentioned above, probably the most typical progressive forms are attributable to Huntington’s disease and rheumatic fever.

Risk aspects

There are specific aspects that increase the chance of chorea. This can be a condition that may occur at any age. Nevertheless, it’s more typical in elderly patients and kids.

Within the elderly, it could actually occur with none apparent cause. Children, then again, usually tend to have rheumatic fever, so that they are those who are inclined to suffer from Sydenham’s chorea.

As one gets older, there may be also an increased risk of cardiovascular events. Strokes are related to chorea. The identical is true for tumors situated near the basal ganglia of the brain.

One among the largest risk aspects is family history. Particularly, having a member of the family with Huntington’s disease. Pregnancy is one other risk situation, even though it’s much less common and is often self-limiting.

Being under certain medical treatments can increase the likelihood of getting this disorder. We noted earlier that it’s related to levodopa and neuroleptics. Other drugs may include anticonvulsants, antihistamines, or certain antidepressants.

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis of chorea could be complex, especially finding the underlying reason behind the condition. Suspicion is often made on clinical grounds, when uncontrollable and unexplained nervous tics are observed.

It’s essential for the physician to know the patient’s medical history, past history, whether the patient has had any infection, whether there are other symptoms, etc. As well as, certain complementary tests are often performed to guide the diagnosis.

  • To begin with, an entire blood test is really helpful. Through this test, it’s possible to detect infections and hormonal or metabolic alterations. It’s also used to search for antibodies within the case of suspected autoimmune diseases.
  • Imaging tests may also be helpful. MRI and CT scans are used when a brain injury is suspected. For instance, a stroke.
  • Finally, genetic testing could be performed to find out if it has its origin in Huntington’s disease.

Treatments available for chorea

Chorea is treated depending on what’s causing it. Based on an article by Mapfre Channels Health, Huntington’s disease has no treatment. There are only measures that may help alleviate a few of the symptoms, but there isn’t any cure.

For instance, dopamine antagonists are used to try to cut back the movements. If psychiatric disturbances occur, neuroleptics, antidepressants, or anxiolytics could also be really helpful.

Usually, most cases of chorea are treated with these drugs. Benzodiazepines are often probably the most commonly used anxiolytics. Tetrabenazine and reserpine, which help reduce catecholamines, are also used.

If the cause is a metabolic disorder, it’s essential to correct it. Sydenham’s chorea is often self-limiting. The movements are also treated with dopamine antagonists. For the condition itself, antibiotics reminiscent of penicillin are prescribed, which may eliminate the infection.

What to recollect about Chorea disease

Chorea itself shouldn’t be a disease, but can occur within the context of many disorders. Many individuals are inclined to use this term as a synonym for Huntington’s disease. Nevertheless, as now we have seen, it generally is a symptom of infections, metabolic disorders, autoimmune diseases, etc.

This symptom can seriously interfere with the sufferer’s life. Due to this fact, it’s essential to try to search out the cause quickly and establish the perfect treatment in each case.

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