Tardive dyskinesia is a condition characterized by involuntary, repetitive movements that affect various parts of the body, such as the face, tongue and limbs. Search online to learn about the symptoms, which can often be misdiagnosed, before seeing a doctor.
While tardive dyskinesia can be disabling and cause significant emotional distress, there are treatment options available that can help individuals manage their symptoms. Read on to learn what some of your options are.
Signs and Symptoms
The disorder is commonly associated with the long-term use of certain medications, particularly antipsychotic drugs prescribed to manage mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The primary symptom of tardive dyskinesia is the involuntary movements of the face, tongue, and jaw.1 These movements can manifest as facial grimacing, repetitive blinking, tongue protrusion, and lip-smacking. Tardive dyskinesia can also affect other body parts, such as the fingers, arms, and legs, causing jerking or writhing movements. In some cases, the movements can be painful or uncomfortable, and they may affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.
Treatment Option: Ceasing Medication
The first step in treating tardive dyskinesia is to discontinue or reduce the dose of the medication that caused the condition. However, this may not always be possible or advisable, particularly if the medication is essential in managing an underlying medical condition. In such cases, other medications can be prescribed to manage the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia. These medications work by modifying the activity of neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine, in the brain. Some commonly used drugs for managing tardive dyskinesia include tetrabenazine, valbenazine, and deutetrabenazine.
Treatment Option: Botox
Another treatment option for tardive dyskinesia is botulinum toxin injections.2 This treatment involves injecting the affected muscle groups with botulinum toxin, which temporarily blocks the nerve signals that cause the involuntary movements. The effects of botulinum toxin injections typically last for a few months, and treatment may need to be repeated periodically to maintain the desired effect.
Treatment Option: Deep Brain Stimulation
In some cases, deep brain stimulation (DBS) may be recommended as a treatment for tardive dyskinesia. This is a surgical procedure that involves implanting electrodes in specific regions of the brain to modulate neural activity. DBS is a relatively new and experimental treatment for tardive dyskinesia, and its long-term safety and efficacy have yet to be fully established. However, early studies have shown promising results, particularly in cases where other treatment options have failed.
Treatment Option: Therapy
Finally, people with tardive dyskinesia can benefit from supportive therapies that can help them manage the emotional and social challenges of the condition. These therapies may include counseling, occupational therapy, and social support groups. By addressing the emotional and social aspects of the condition, individuals with tardive dyskinesia can improve their quality of life and overall well-being.