Chorea

Chorea is a movement disorder where people have brief movements they cannot control. These movements drift from one muscle to another and can involve virtually any part of the body.

Chorea is a common symptom of Huntington’s disease and other less-common diseases. Chorea is also frequently observed in patients with Parkinson’s disease taking a medication called levodopa. In this case, it is referred to as "dyskinesias."

Symptoms

People with chorea have irregular, uncontrollable movements that can happen in many areas of the body. Patients with chorea may have:

  • Muscle contractions with no regular rhythm
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty talking
  • Abnormal walk


Causes and Risk Factors

Chorea has multiple known causes.

Chorea is a common symptom of Huntington’s disease.

Rheumatic fever can cause chorea. In this case, it is called Syndenham's chorea. If the condition is caused by pregnancy, it is known as chorea gravidarum. Other causes include medications, endocrine disorders, or a stroke or tumor.

A variety of autoimmune diseases have been associated with adult-onset chorea, including systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjögren's syndrome and antiphospholipid antibody syndrome.

A rare form of chorea has been linked to high levels of a certain protein known as alpha-fetoprotein. This increased protein level can be associated with ataxia-teleangectasia, a genetic condition.

Diagnosis

A doctor will usually begin with a physical exam to diagnose chorea. The doctor will also ask questions about medical history and symptoms. People with chorea often have bruises or cuts they suffered when they could not control their movements.

The physician may order a CT scan or MRI to look at the patient’s brain. These tests can also help identify if the brain has been damaged by a stroke or tumor.

Treatments

Treatment of chorea will depend on the cause of the condition. If the irregular movements are due to Huntington’s disease, the treatment will work to reduce the symptoms as much as possible. Doctors may give medicines to help control the brain’s chemical messengers.

If the condition has been caused by an infection, antibiotics and other medicine will often address the condition.

If a person has chorea because of a stroke or tumor, they may need surgery. Tumors may also be treated using targeted radiation with a treatment known as stereotactic radiosurgery.