One of the various nervous disorders that affect humans is chorea. This disease is characterized by spasmodic movements of limbs and facial muscles; it is likewise marked by incoordination. There are six forms of chorea, and these are the two major ones: Huntington’s chorea and Sydenham’s chorea.
This form of chorea was named after the American physician George Huntington, who made an exhaustive description of the disease in 1872. Huntington described the disease as being hereditary, and its symptoms are jerking, involuntary movements and progressive mental deterioration.
The symptoms of Huntington’s chorea usually appear between ages thirty and forty. The jerking movements and mental deterioration usually occur at the same time, although in some cases one group of symptoms appears ahead of the other. The movements consist of an unsteady, flouncing gait, tottering, and grimacing. As Huntington’s chorea progresses, the muscles become weaker.
In Huntington’s chorea, many of the brain’s and spinal cord’s nerve cells show deterioration. Mental symptoms associated with this disease vary. Some patients exhibit cheerfulness, while others are spiteful, suspicious, and even destructive. The mental faculties gradually become impaired in functioning or condition until the patient must be cared for in an institution. In many cases of Huntington’s chorea, the patient succumbs in ten to fifteen years. This is usually brought about by certain complications, such as pneumonia or heart failure.
There is no drug that will alter the course of Huntington’s chorea, although certain medicines may reduce some of the physical and mental symptoms, enabling the patient to function better.
This other major form of chorea was named after the English physicist Thomas Sydenham, who discovered the disease. The disease is a disorder of childhood, occurring most commonly in females aged five to fifteen, and is marked by rapid, involuntary, jerking movements.
As Sydenham’s chorea begins, there is clumsiness; the affected person shows a tendency to drop things. In the end, the involuntary movements involve nearly all muscles with the exception of the muscles of the eyes. A certain degree of weakness may develop, and coordination is poor. The patient may likewise experience difficulty in chewing and swallowing.
The person with Sydenham’s chorea usually recovers in six to ten weeks. In about a third of the cases, the disease recurs later. The exact cause of Sydenham’s chorea is not known; however, a relationship to prior streptococcal infections and rheumatic fever appears probable. Medical records indicate that about fifty percent of young patients with rheumatic fever develop chorea.
There is no specific treatment for Sydenham’s chorea, although rheumatic fever should be treated when present. The young patient should be kept quiet at home or in a hospital. Attention should be given to the patient’s peace of mind. Sedation may be needed in some cases. Fomentations and warm baths may be helpful.
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5. “Sydenham’s Chorea,” on WE MOVE – Worldwide Education and Awareness for Movement Disorders (online) – http://www.wemove.org/syd/
6. “Sydenham’s chorea,” on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydenham’s_chorea