There are many patients with mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia that may require long term treatment with antipsychotic medications. This ongoing process is very helpful, however, it can also be harmful in the long run. Unfortunately, these patients are prone to developing tardive dyskinesia.
Tardive dyskinesia is a movement disorder that, after taking antipsychotic medication, patients can develop months, years or decades later.
What puts you at risk?
There are several factors that can put you at risk of developing tardive dyskinesia:
- If you have a substance abuse disorder such as alcoholism
- Long term treatment with antipsychotic medications, particularly first generation antipsychotic medications, but also second generation antipsychotic medications
- Persons of older age undergoing these medication treatments, specifically women in their post-menopausal lives
- People of Asian American or African American ethnicity
The symptoms of tardive dyskinesia are as follows:
- Experience of unpredictable movements of the jaw, the tongue, the lips, or other muscles.
- In some cases it can be movements of the legs, toes, fingers and arms
- In severe cases, people experience swaying movements of the respiratory muscles, torso or hips.
Who Will Develop Tardive Dyskinesia?
Not everyone that undergoes long term treatment with antipsychotic medications will develop tardive dyskinesia. There are several neurological conditions such as Huntington’s disease, strokes and Parkinson’s disease that can result in uncontrollable movement of the limbs and muscles as well. Therefore, only once a long history of a person’s use of antipsychotic medications is documented, can tardive dyskinesia be considered.
In fact, studies suggest that the risk of developing tardive dyskinesia during antipsychotic medication treatment is between 30-50%.
Like most illnesses, the best form of treatment for tardive dyskinesia is prevention. When taking antipsychotic medications, a person should see their psychiatrist for regular evaluations. If any signs of tardive dyskinesia develop, your psychiatrist may recognize them before they become severe. Most psychiatrists will use “The Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale” (AIMS), the standardized rating scale to screen patients for tardive dyskinesia, at least once each year.
Currently there is no cure for tardive dyskinesia. Many medications such as Vitamin E, and Gingko Biloba have been studied, but there is no clear treatment at this time. The antipsychotic clozapine has been effective in selective cases of but it is not a definite treatment.
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