Sydenham Chorea (Saint Vitus Dance)
What is Sydenham Chorea?
Sydenham chorea, also called St. Vitus dance, is a childhood movement disorder characterised by rapid, irregular, aimless, involuntary movements of the muscles of the limbs, face, and trunk. The disorder, which is considered a manifestation of rheumatic fever (streptococcal infection), typically has an onset between the ages of 5 and 15. Girls are affected more often than boys. The symptoms may appear gradually or suddenly, and may include muscle weakness, hypotonia (decreased muscle tone), and clumsiness. The symptoms vary in severity--from mild cases in which there is restlessness, facial grimacing, and a slight degree of incoordination of movements, to severe cases involving involuntary movements that incapacitate the child. The disorder may strike up to 6 months after the fever or infection has cleared. The chorea is believed to result from an autoimmune mechanism that occurs when the streptococcal infection causes the body to make antibodies to specific brain regions.