Dyskinesias in Children: What Parents Need to Know

Dyskinesias in Children: What Parents Need to Know May, 19 2023

Understanding Dyskinesias in Children

Dyskinesias in children are movement disorders that can cause involuntary, repetitive, and uncontrolled movements. These can range from subtle to quite noticeable and can have a significant impact on a child's quality of life. In this article, we will explore the different types of dyskinesias, the causes, and how they can be treated. As a parent, it's essential to be informed about these disorders, so you can recognize the signs and seek appropriate help for your child.

Types of Dyskinesias in Children

There are several types of dyskinesias that can affect children, each with its own set of symptoms and causes. Understanding these different types can help you better recognize the signs and symptoms in your child. The most common types of dyskinesias in children include:

Tardive Dyskinesia

Tardive dyskinesia is a type of dyskinesia that usually results from long-term use of certain medications, such as antipsychotic drugs. It is characterized by involuntary movements of the face, tongue, and jaw, which can include lip smacking, grimacing, and rapid eye blinking.


Dystonia is a movement disorder that causes involuntary muscle contractions, leading to abnormal postures and movements. In children, it can affect various body parts, such as the neck, limbs, or eyes. Depending on the severity, it can be painful and significantly impact daily activities.


Chorea is characterized by brief, irregular, and rapid involuntary movements that can affect any part of the body. These movements can be jerky and appear to flow from one body part to another. Chorea can be caused by various factors, such as genetic conditions, infections, or exposure to certain medications.

Causes of Dyskinesias in Children

There are several potential causes of dyskinesias in children, which can include genetic factors, exposure to certain medications, infections, or brain injury. Some of the most common causes of dyskinesias in children are:

Genetic Conditions

Some genetic conditions, such as Huntington's disease or Wilson's disease, can cause dyskinesias in children. These conditions are usually inherited and can result in various movement disorders, including dystonia, chorea, and tremors.

Medication Exposure

Certain medications, especially antipsychotic drugs, can cause dyskinesias in children. Tardive dyskinesia is a common side effect of long-term use of these medications and can result in involuntary facial movements.

Infections and Autoimmune Diseases

In some cases, infections or autoimmune diseases can cause dyskinesias in children. For example, Sydenham's chorea is a movement disorder that can result from a streptococcal infection and can cause involuntary, jerky movements in the limbs and face.

Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury or other types of brain damage can also result in dyskinesias in children. Depending on the severity and location of the injury, a child may experience various movement disorders, such as dystonia or tremors.

Diagnosis of Dyskinesias in Children

If you suspect that your child may have a dyskinesia, it's essential to seek a professional evaluation. A doctor will typically start by taking a detailed medical history, including any family history of movement disorders and any medications your child is currently taking. They will also perform a thorough physical examination to assess your child's movement patterns and postures.

In some cases, additional tests may be needed to determine the cause of the dyskinesia. These can include blood tests, genetic testing, and imaging studies, such as MRI or CT scans. A proper diagnosis is crucial for determining the most appropriate treatment plan for your child.

Treatment Options for Dyskinesias in Children

Treatment for dyskinesias in children will depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the symptoms. Some of the most common treatment options include:


In some cases, medications can help manage the symptoms of dyskinesias in children. For example, anticholinergic drugs can be used to treat chorea, while muscle relaxants or botulinum toxin injections can help alleviate dystonia. If the dyskinesia is caused by a medication your child is taking, your doctor may recommend adjusting the dosage or switching to a different drug.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

Physical and occupational therapy can be beneficial for children with dyskinesias, as they can help improve muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility. These therapies can also teach your child coping strategies and techniques to help manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

Surgical Intervention

In some severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to treat dyskinesias in children. One example is deep brain stimulation, which involves implanting electrodes into the brain to help regulate abnormal movements. This treatment option is typically reserved for severe cases that do not respond to other therapies.

Supporting Your Child with Dyskinesias

As a parent, it can be difficult to see your child struggle with a movement disorder like dyskinesias. However, there are several ways you can support your child and help them lead a fulfilling life:

  • Encourage open communication with your child about their symptoms and how they are feeling.
  • Help your child develop coping strategies to manage their symptoms, such as deep breathing exercises or visualization techniques.
  • Work closely with your child's healthcare team to ensure they are receiving the most appropriate and effective treatments.
  • Consider seeking support from a counselor or therapist, both for your child and yourself, to help navigate the emotional challenges that can come with a movement disorder.

In conclusion, dyskinesias in children can be a challenging and complex condition. By understanding the different types, causes, and treatment options, you can better support your child and help them manage their symptoms. Remember that early intervention is key, so if you suspect your child may have a dyskinesia, it's essential to seek a professional evaluation as soon as possible.