What is Athetosis?

Athetosis is a continuous stream of slow, flowing, writhing involuntary movements. It usually affects the hands and feet. Hemiballismus is a type of chorea, usually involving violent, involuntary flinging of one arm and/or one leg.

The majority of movements in the human body are controlled by muscles. Walking about the home or picking something up with both hands are only two simple daily activities that can be significantly impacted by the inability to regulate one's own actions. This class will go into great detail on athetosis, one such condition that results in a loss of body control.

What exactly is athetosis and how does it impact a person? The definition of athetosis refers to abrupt, spastic, and uncontrollable movements of the body brought on by a brain disorder or other cognitive condition. Lesion refers to the portion of the brain that is injured or impaired.


What is Athetosis?

  • Athetosis is a movement dysfunction. It's characterized by involuntary writhing movements. These movements may be continuous, slow, and rolling. They may also make maintaining a symmetrical and stable posture difficult.
  • With athetosis, the same regions of the body are repeatedly affected. These typically include the hands, arms, and feet. The neck, face, tongue, and trunk can be involved, too.
  • While athetosis may be continuous, it can get worse with attempts to control movement. For example, if a person with the condition tries to type on a computer keyboard, they may have extreme difficulty controlling where their fingers land and how long they remain.


What causes Athetosis?

The most common cause of athetosis is an injury to the basal ganglia, which is the part of the brain responsible for motor control. It also influences executive functions, emotions, behaviors, and motor learning.
Athetosis is solely a symptom of other neurological diseases or disorders; it is not regarded as a medical problem in and of itself. The brain area known as the basal ganglia, which controls how muscles move in unison, is the most common site of athetosis. The basal ganglia's major job is to smooth down motions so they don't happen suddenly and jerkily as they do in athetosis. The most common neurological diseases or birth problems that result in lesions to the basal ganglia include:
  • Cerebral palsy (the most common cause)
  • Basal ganglia diseases, such as Huntington's disease, Wilson's disease, and Rett syndrome
  • Trauma to the brain or brain tumors
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Medication or drug toxicity
  • Stroke

Other movement disorders, such as chorea, which is often characterized by quicker and more jerky motions than those observed with athetosis, may also coexist with athetosis. Choreoathetosis is the more precise term for the condition in which both athetosis and chorea coexist. Inexplicably developing choreoathetosis (also known as chorea) might affect some muscles in elderly adults, potentially leading to athetosis symptoms.

Symptoms of Athetosis?

Athetosis symptoms and signs include:
  • sluggish, writhing, involuntary muscular motions
  • erratic and unexpected variations in muscular action that aggravate symptoms when controlled movement is attempted
  • symptoms getting worse despite posture improvement efforts
  • difficulties standing and speaking


Muscle "overflow" may also occur in those with athetosis. When you try to control one muscle or muscle group, another muscle group moves in an uncontrollable way. For instance, you could notice more muscular activity in the arm when you try to speak.

What is the difference between chorea and Athetosis?

Chorea is an ongoing random-appearing sequence of one or more discrete involuntary movements or movement fragments. Athetosis is a slow, continuous, involuntary writhing movement that prevents maintenance of a stable posture.

Symptoms of chorea include:brief and irregular movements
  • dancelike jerking and rhythmic movements
  • sudden muscle contractions
  • involuntary movements that begin and end abruptly and unpredictably
Chorea primarily affects the face, mouth, trunk, and limbs.

Treatment of Athetosis?

The underlying cause of the movement issue is the focus of treatment. If the underlying issue that causes the jerky motions of the muscles is cured, the associated symptoms ought to be lessened or gone altogether.
Sometimes, distinct from other therapies, some treatments may be utilized to lessen the intensity of the movements. These consist of:
  • Anti-dopamine drugs: medications that lessen the impact of the hormone on the brain
  • Botox injections are a therapy that may momentarily restrict uncontrollable muscular movements.
  • Exercise your muscles in occupational therapy to restore some control.

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