How Serious Is Tardive Dyskinesia?

Medically Reviewed on 3/31/2022
How Serious Is Tardive Dyskinesia?
Tardive dyskinesia symptoms can make it difficult to carry out daily physical tasks, lowering one's quality of life.

Tardive dyskinesia is caused as a side effect of neuroleptic drugs and brings about involuntary and uncontrolled movements, which include grimacing, twitching, and thrusting.

  • It is a neurological syndrome marked by random movements that usually occur in the jaws, tongue, face, or lips although they may affect other parts of the body as well.
  • The condition occurs due to the long-term use of antipsychotic medications that are used to treat conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression.

Tardive dyskinesia symptoms can make it difficult to carry out daily physical tasks, lowering one's quality of life.

What are the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia?

Symptoms of the condition include stiff, jerky movements in the body that cannot be controlled.

Some other symptoms include:

  • Oro-bucco-lingual dyskinesia or orofacial dyskinesia
    • Sticking out tongue without trying
    • Fast blinking of the eyes
    • Smacking or puckering of the lips
    • Puffing out of cheeks
    • Frowning, grunting, and chewing
  • Dyskinesia of the limbs
    • Tapping feet involuntary
    • Wiggling fingers
    • Thrusting pelvis
    • Flapping arms
    • Swaying side to side uncontrollably

Movements can be slow or fast, daily routine can get affected, and it can be difficult to work and remain active.

What medications cause tardive dyskinesia?

Neuroleptic or antipsychotic drugs are used to treat mental ailments and gastrointestinal disorders, and tardive dyskinesia is considered a side effect of the medications. These medications block the brain's chemical dopamine which may result in uncontrolled or involuntary movements.

According to medical professionals, the medications that are linked to tardive dyskinesia include:

Apart from the aforementioned medications, antiseizure drugs (phenytoin and phenobarbital) and antidepressant drugs (trazodone, fluoxetine, sertraline, phenelzine, and amitriptyline) are linked with tardive dyskinesia.

It is important to acknowledge here that every individual who takes these medications does not develop tardive dyskinesia in their lifetime, or some individuals can continue to experience the symptoms even after stopping the medications.


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What are the risk factors for tardive dyskinesia?

The risk of tardive dyskinesia increases for a patient if they continue to take the medication above.

Other risk factors for tardive dyskinesia include:

  • Women going through menopause
  • Individuals older than 55 years
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Asian American or African American ethnicity

How is tardive dyskinesia diagnosed?

Tardive dyskinesia can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms of the condition can take time to appear. However, a medical professional can diagnose the condition through testing procedures such as positron emission tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, or computed tomography scans.

A tool called the Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale is used to track the severity of the symptoms of patients who take neuroleptic drugs.

During the evaluation, the doctor gauges involuntary movements on a five-point scale and assesses the severity.

How is tardive dyskinesia treated?

No standard treatment options are available for tardive dyskinesia. For the affected patients, neuroleptic medications are tweaked to ameliorate the condition. However, complete prohibition of the use of the medication is inhibited because it can lead to a condition known as withdrawal-emergent dyskinesia.

Medication treatment options include:

Doctors prescribe alternative and complementary therapies, such as Ginkgo biloba, to treat tardive dyskinesia. However, more studies need to be conducted on their effectiveness.

How can you prevent tardive dyskinesia?

Prevention is considered one of the best strategies when it comes to combating tardive dyskinesia. Judicious use of antipsychotic drugs, regular monitoring of patients, and providing immediate remedies when symptoms occur can help prevent tardive dyskinesia.

Upon observing the symptoms, medical help should be sought immediately for proper care and treatment.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/31/2022
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