February 25, 2010

Athetosis Condition – Causes, Symptoms and Medications

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

Athetosis is a condition in which a person continuously moves his or her hands and feet in a slow, snake-like fashion. The movements are the result of damage to certain parts of the brain and nervous system, and person is unable to control these movements. These involuntary movements become particularly pronounced when the patient is emotionally stressed. They also tend to occur whenever the patient performs a task with the affected limbs. The condition often occurs in conjunction with another condition known as chorea, in which case it is described as choreoathetosis. In chorea, random, sudden movements affect the facial muscles. These movements too are involuntary and uncontrollable. The combination of the two can be particularly traumatic, for both the patient and his or her loved ones.

Athetosis is usually caused by damage to the corpus striatum, a striated compound structure in the brain, which includes the putamen. Damage to the putamen is thought to be the exact cause of the condition. The putamen, which is also part of the basal ganglia, is responsible for regulating body movements. Other degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease also involve damage to the putamen. It is also said that lesions on the motor thalamus can cause athetosis.

Athetosis cannot be completely cured, but certain approaches can help to manage the condition and decrease the severity of the symptoms of atheosis. Medication options are improving today, but are still difficult to come by. However, this is something that should always be discussed with the doctor, as some recent medications have shown great promise. In addition to this, muscle training and psychological counseling are known to help. Muscle training seems to help the patient to regain control over the affected limbs, at least to some extent. Psychological counseling helps the patient to handle stress and excitement, as these are frequent triggers. Therefore the blend of the two is absolutely necessary. Surgery is the final option, although it has risks, which include paralysis of the limb.

There is also a condition known as pseudoathetosis, but this has no relation to athetosis except for the similarity of the symptom. It too involves similar abnormal and uncontrollable movements, but these have a slightly different cause – the damage here is in the cervical spine, which affects proprioception. In this case, it is usually the fingers that are affected – sometimes the fingers of only one hand – and the movements occur only when the eyes are closed.