What Is Athetosis?

Athetosis is a condition that is characterized by involuntary, writhing movements of the neck, fingers, arms and legs. Lesions in the brain are the direct cause of athetosis, especially, lesions within the corpus striatum.

Athetosis is frequently seen in association with symptoms of cerebral palsy. Treatment options for athetosis are not very effective, and by and large, the aim of the treatment regimen is to manage the involuntary movements, rather than treating the cause of the disorder.

What are the Symptoms of Athetosis

Athetotic movements are slow, writhing and graceful, and affect mainly the arms, hands, legs and feet. People may also experience other atypical movements, such as, chorea, which triggers involuntary jerky, swift movements of the hands and feet.

Athetosis varies from mild to severe motor dysfunction; it is typified by involuntary, unbalanced movements of the muscle with a difficulty in maintaining a symmetrical posture. Motor dysfunction may be limited to a part of body or may occur throughout the body, depending up on the severity of the condition.

The most obvious symptoms are writhing, convoluted movements of the digits. Athetosis may become apparent as early as 18 months from birth. First signs include: difficulty in feeding, spasms, hypotonia, poor sitting balance hearing loss, speech impairment, and uncontrolled movements of the face, hands, and feet, which aggravates with time, right through adolescence and at times of emotional stress.

What Causes Athetosis?

Athetosis is caused by lesions in the brain, usually, in the corpus striatum, hippocampi, and the thalamus. These lesions are the chief cause for the development of involuntary and uncontrolled movements.

Diagnosis of Athetosis

The doctor will take a detialed history of the patient and make physical examinations. On the basis of this, he will be able to conclude the diagnosis of the case. Also, he may ask you to carry out certain investigations to understand the exact cause; CT scan and MRI of the brain are recommended to identify the lesions.

Treatment of Athetosis and Athetosis Prognosis

It is not possible to cure athetosis completely, prognosis is relatively poor, however, some approaches help manage the condition better and reduce the intensity of the symptoms of athetosis.

Your health care professional will prescribe the necessary medications to manage the jerky, involuntary movements effectively. Levodopa or diazepam may be prescribed by your doctor in high doses. Occasionally, some other muscle relaxants and sedatives are prescribed as well.

In addition, muscle training and psychological counseling are extremely beneficial. Muscle training helps the patient recuperate and get better control over the affected limbs, at least to a certain extent. Psychological counseling is crucial and it helps tackle stress, anxiety and excitement successfully, given that, these are regular triggers. Hence, muscle training and counseling are important aspects of the treatment plan.

Surgery is a treatment option that is used by a number of doctors, though it is fraught with some risks, such as, paralysis of the limb.