Chorea: Signs, Causes, and Treatment

Overview

Chorea is a movement disorder that causes involuntary, unpredictable body movements.

Chorea symptoms can range from minor movements, such as fidgeting, to severe uncontrolled arm and leg movements. It can also interfere with:

  • speech
  • swallowing
  • posture
  • gait

What are the signs of chorea?

Chorea symptoms usually depend upon the condition causing it. A common symptom is “milkmaid’s grip.” People with this condition don’t have coordinated hand muscles and will squeeze and release their hand, as if milking. Another symptom is involuntarily sticking out the tongue.

Chorea movements can be fast or slow. A person may appear to be writhing in pain and have no bodily control. These movements have also been called dance-like or similar to piano playing.

Conditions associated with chorea and its symptoms include:

Huntington’s disease

Huntington’s disease is an inherited disease. It causes the breakdown of nerve cells in your brain. People with Huntington’s disease can experience chorea symptoms such as involuntary jerking or writhing. Milkmaid’s grip is also a common symptom.

Chorea is more common in people with adult-onset Huntington’s disease. Over time, symptoms may get worse, and movements may affect the legs and arms.

Chorea-acanthocytosis

This condition is a very rare genetic disorder. It’s characterized by misshapen red blood cells. It causes neurological abnormalities and affects brain functioning.

Chorea for this condition commonly involves:

  • abnormal arm and leg movements
  • shoulder shrugs
  • pelvic thrusts

It can also involve rapid, purposeless movements of the face.

People with this form of chorea can also exhibit dystonia. This is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions of the mouth and face, such as:

  • teeth grinding
  • involuntary belching
  • drooling or spitting
  • lip and tongue biting
  • difficulty with speech or communication
  • difficulty swallowing
  • vocal tics, such as grunting, involuntary speaking, or slurred speech

In addition to chorea and dystonia, this condition may cause:

  • seizures
  • neuropathy
  • loss of sensation
  • muscle weakness
  • behavioral and personality changes