Chorea is a movement disorder that causes involuntary, unpredictable, and abrupt movements. There are two types of chorea: primary chorea and secondary chorea.

According to a 2022 article, chorea is a state of involuntary movement. These movements are nonrepetitive, exaggerated, and abrupt. They arise in irregular and random patterns.

The movements can affect the whole body or specific areas, such as the hands or face.

This article explores the types of chorea and includes their causes. It also discusses chorea treatments and the outlook for people with the condition.

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Primary chorea develops as the result of a disease, of which it is a primary symptom. Primary symptoms are common symptoms of a condition or symptoms that must be present to diagnose the condition.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), chorea is an important primary symptom of Huntington’s disease.

Huntington’s disease is hereditary and occurs from a mutation in the Huntingtin gene. This mutation causes neurodegeneration within the brain.

In Huntington’s disease, chorea is a common early symptom. As the disease progresses, chorea often gives way to slowness or difficulty of movement.

Some of its other symptoms include:

Due to its strong genetic component, people with a family history of Huntington’s disease are at risk of developing it themselves. The disease mostly begins affecting people between 30 and 50 years old.

Learn more about Huntington’s disease and chorea.

Secondary chorea arises in any condition that is not a primary symptom. This means that this symptom is not essential for diagnosing the condition.

According to a 2022 paper, secondary chorea can arise in the following conditions:

Chorea can have causes besides the above. For instance, stroke and brain tumors sometimes lead to chorea.

The use of certain medications and drugs can also induce chorea, including:

Scientists do not know how common chorea might be. However, researchers have some data about the incidence of certain causes of chorea, which includes:

  • Huntington’s disease: This condition affects between 5 and 10 in every 100,000 individuals in the United States.
  • Wilson’s disease: This affects around 30 in every 1 million people.
  • Benign hereditary chorea: Very rarely, someone inherits chorea. This affects around 1 in every 500,000 individuals.

Experts also note that chorea can arise in up to 40% of people who have rheumatic fever. This is known as Sydenham chorea. Rheumatic fever affects around 200,000 individuals in the U.S.

Treatment for chorea varies depending on the underlying cause.

For example, there is no known way to stop Huntington’s disease from progressing. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms.

The following medications can improve chorea in Huntington’s disease:

NINDS also explains there is no specific treatment for Sydenham chorea. Experts note there is limited research on the effectiveness of Sydenham chorea treatments.

A common treatment option is valproic acid, which is an antiepileptic drug. Risperidone, an antipsychotic medication, may also have positive effects.

When the chorea is particularly severe, doctors recommend sedatives, such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

The outlook for people with chorea depends upon the underlying cause.

For example, Huntington’s disease is a serious and incurable condition. However, medications can help to manage the symptoms, including chorea.

The outlook for secondary chorea also depends on the underlying cause. For example, Sydenham chorea is a treatable condition that tends to resolve after 3–6 weeks. However, some individuals may experience lifelong symptoms. Cardiac complications such as endocarditis can also occur.

Chorea is a movement disorder where a person experiences involuntary, unpredictable, and erratic movements.

There are two types of chorea. Primary chorea is when chorea is a primary symptom of a medical condition, such as Huntington’s disease.

Secondary chorea is when chorea develops due to another cause, such as a medical condition, medication, or drugs.