Six common movement disorders

Aug 27, 2019

St. Joseph’s/Candler Neurologist Dr. Jill Trumble explains such conditions as Parkinson’s disease, Essential Tremor and Dystonia

For more than 40 million people in the United States, their next movement may be unknown. Will they fall? Will a shaking hand prevent them from enjoying a refreshing beverage? Will they be able to vocalize what’s really on their mind?

These people are living with a movement disorder, which is defined as a group of neurological conditions causing involuntary or abnormal movement.

At St. Joseph’s/Candler, we have a team of specialists – from neurologists to neurosurgeons to nurses to physical therapists – trained to treat movement disorders. The St. Joseph’s/Candler Movement Disorders Program specifically is designed to offer comprehensive evaluation and treatment for patients with movement disorders.

There are more than 30 different diseases identified as neurological movement disorders. They can affect speed, quality and ease of movement. Movement disorders are usually caused by disease in various parts of the brain.

Dr. Jill Trumble, medical director of the SJ/C Movement Disorders Program, discusses six of the most common movement disorders.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Leg Syndrome is the most common movement disorder. It is characterized by an abnormal sensation in the legs with the urge to move the legs, usually happening in the evening and at rest.

“People suffering from RLS have the urge to move their legs and experience an abnormal sensation that can be hard to describe,” Dr. Trumble says. “Some have described it as a feeling of bugs crawling on them.”

RLS affects a person’s ability to fall asleep, as they feel they have to get up and walk around. There are medications and home remedies that can help suppress symptoms of RLS.

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system, affecting more than 10 million people worldwide. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Tremor at rest
  • Slowness
  • Stiffness
  • Poor balance

The onset of the disease is usually gradual, with early symptoms including little to no expression, soft speech and hand tremors.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are medications, surgery and therapy options that can help significantly improve symptoms and quality of life.

Related Article: Physical therapy can help Parkinson’s patients with walking, daily functions

Essential Tremor

Essential Tremor can be a progressive neurological disorder with patients experiencing tremors in the extremities, head, voice or other body parts as they attempt a specific activity, such as eating or writing.

“These tremors are involuntary, rhythmic movements, sometimes feeling like an internal shake,” Dr. Trumble describes.

The disease affects nearly 7 million people in the United States. It is a hereditary disease. If one of your parents has the disease, you have a 50 percent chance of getting it.

Essential tremor can worsen over time and is most common in people age 40 and older. Some people may not require treatment if symptoms are mild, but if symptoms make daily life difficult, surgery may be recommended or medication can be prescribed.

Tics and Tourette Syndrome

A tic is a voluntary movement or vocalization that is usually sudden, brief, repetitive and/or non-rhythmic due to abnormal urge or sensation. Tics can affect any part of the body and are classified as either simple or complex.

Tourette Syndrome is diagnosed when both movement and vocalized tics are present for more than six months. Researchers are unsure how many people have Tourette Syndrome as many cases are undiagnosed.

Tics typically start in childhood and do not have to be treated. If tics do not resolve or are interfering with daily activities, medications and behavior therapy can help keep symptoms under control.

Dystonia and Torticollis

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that affects approximately 250,000 people in the United States. It is characterized by sustained muscle contractions that cause twisting, repetitive movements or abnormal postures, which often become worse with voluntary movements.

“Dystonia can be hereditary or be caused by birth-related or physical trauma, infection, poisoning or medication,” Dr. Trumble says. “Treatment is highly customized to the individual and may include medication, botulinum toxin injections, physical therapy or surgery.”

Torticollis is a type of Dystonia defined by abnormal, asymmetrical head or neck positions. It can be treated with medication and/or botulinum toxin injections.

Huntington’s disease

Huntington’s disease is the progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the brain, usually resulting in abnormal movement, cognitive and psychiatric disorders. It is an inherited condition and rare, but there is no cure for the disease.

Symptoms include:

  • Cognitive deficits
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Involuntary dance-like movements
  • Impaired posture and balance
  • Slow or abnormal eye movements

Symptoms of Huntington’s disease tend to develop in individuals in their 30s or 40s. Symptoms can hinder patients from doing normal things. Medications can help manage symptoms.

While there are similarities in these various types of movement disorders, each is treated and dealt with differently based on a patient’s condition and the movement disorder itself.

If you think you or a loved one is affected by a movement disorder, talk to your physician about a referral to see a neurologist. Learn more about St. Joseph’s/Candler Physician Network – Neurology.

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