Understanding Athetosis Causes

The chief cause for athetosis is lesions within the various areas of the brain, which tend to trigger involuntary and uncontrolled movements of the body.

Patho-physiologically, athetosis is caused due to damage to the corpus striatum, a striated compound structure in the brain, which comprises of the putamen. Impairment and injury to the putamen is the precise cause of the disorder. The putamen, a component of the basal ganglia, regulates the movements of the body. Degenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease can damage the putamen. Lesions on the motor thalamus can also trigger the development of athetosis.

Athetotic movement may occur due to several reasons. The most common athetosis causes are:

• Encephalitis, cerebral palsy, stroke, brain tumors, rheumatic fever, systemic lupus erythematosus, and injury to the brain.

• Kernicterus, a severe kind of jaundice, occuring rarely in newborns, can cause brain damage which may result in athetotic movements.

• Athetosis can occur as a side effect to anti psychotic drugs, or due to an overdose of amphetamine or because of carbon monoxide poisoning.

• A common cause of athetosis is pregnancy rheumatic fever

• A rare athetosis cause is ataxia telangiectasia, which is an abnormal childhood disorder that causes progressive weakening of the nervous system. Fahr's Syndrome is another rare athetosis cause and causes calcium to be deposited in various parts of the brain causing progressive loss of mental and motor capability. Hallervorden-Spatz disease results in movement problems too.