Paroxysmal choreoathetosis is a movement disorder which is marked by episodes or attacks of involuntary movements of the limbs, trunk, and facial muscles. A single member or several of them in the same family may suffer the disorder. Tightening of muscles or other physical symptoms are usually experienced by the individuals before getting an attack.
While some attacks of paroxysmal choreoathetosis may be involuntary, consumption of alcohol or caffeine may trigger other attacks. Tiredness and stress are other strong triggers for the attack. An attack may last from 10 seconds to over an hour and the muscle tightness may linger after an attack in some individuals.
Adolescence is the age when paroxysmal choreoathetosis attacks usually start and a gene has been discovered to be the cause for it. The same gene is associated with epilepsy too.
Almost all patients respond positively to antiepileptic (anticonvulsant) drugs. Drug therapy, particularly carbamazepine, has been very successful in reducing or eliminating attacks of paroxysmal choreoathetosis. While carbamazepine is not effective in every case, other drugs have been substituted with good effect.
Other anticonvulsants like valproic acid, phenytoin and clonazepam are common alternatives. Other categories of drugs have also been used, such as dopamine affecting drugs like Levodopa or Tetrabenazine. Individuals with the disorder can also modify their behaviour to lessen their attacks without the influence of drug therapy.
Decreasing stress to avoid precipitants can help patients decrease the number of attacks. In addition, avoiding any sudden movements can also prevent an attack. Many, if not most, individuals end up growing out of the attacks with age, even without medicinal therapy, but some patients will go back to having attacks after a period of remission.
Read more articles on Paroxysmal Choreoathetosis Disease.