Paroxysmal choreoathetosis is a movement disorder characterized by episodes or attacks of involuntary movements of the limbs, trunk, and facial muscles.
The disorder may occur in several members of a family, or in only a single family member. Paroxysmal choreoathetosis frequently begins in early adolescence. A gene associated with the disorder has been discovered. The same gene is also associated with epilepsy. The disorder passes roughly to fifty percent of the offspring.
The condition manifests itself as attacks lasting from 10 seconds to several hours. Attacks only happen when the individual is awake, and they remain conscious throughout the episode. Symptoms are most severe in youth and lessen with age. Sufferers can have multiple attacks on a daily basis or they may have periods of weeks or months between attacks.
Prior to an attack some individuals experience tightening of muscles or other physical symptoms. Involuntary movements precipitate some attacks, and other attacks occur when the individual has consumed alcohol or caffeine, or is tired or stressed. Some individuals have lingering muscle tightness after an attack.
Generally, paroxysmal choreoathetosis lessens with age, and many adults have a complete remission.
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. Because drug therapy is so effective, the prognosis for the disorder is good.