Mild to Severe Signs of Tardive Dyskinesia You Should Pay Attention To

Tardive dyskinesia is estimated to affect at least 500,000 people in the U.S. within the next year. Those who use certain medications have been treated for depression, epileptic seizures, anxiety, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, heartburn and even nausea. And unfortunately, the list of medications goes on. Furthermore, many don’t know the first signs of the disorder. The more you wait to discover it, the more likely you are to develop an even more persistent and irreversible form of tardive dyskinesia.

What is Tardive Dyskinesia?
According to Mental Health America, Tardive dyskinesia is a neurological disorder caused by the long-term use of neuroleptic drugs, or anti-psychotic medications. Neuroleptic drugs are generally prescribed for psychiatric disorders, as well as for some gastrointestinal and neurological disorders. Neuroleptic drugs work by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers but also plays a major role in motor functioning. As a result, neuroleptic drugs can cause disorders affecting the motor system.

Tardive dyskinesia is characterized by repetitive and involuntary movements. Approximately 60 to 70 percent of the cases are mild, with about 3 percent being extremely severe. Severe cases may involve problems such as difficulty swallowing, speech interference, disfigured facial features, and breathing trouble.

Not sure how severe your case of Tardive dyskinesia may be? Check out these features listed from the mildest signs to the most severe:

Mild Signs
Facial and oral movements are the most common presenting signs. Early signs of Tardive Dyskinesia include subtle movements of the surface or body of the tongue, increased eye blinking, and jerking of the fingers or toes. There may be involuntary movements of the forehead, eyebrows, periorbital area, and cheeks, as well as involuntary frowning, blinking, smiling, and grimacing.

Also typical are involuntary puckering, pouting, and smacking of the lips. Involuntary biting, clenching, chewing, mouth opening, and lateral movements of the jaw may also occur, along with protrusion, tremor, and choreoathetoid movements (ie, rolling, worm-like movement of the tongue without displacement from the mouth).

Moderate Signs
Movements of the arms, wrists, hands, and fingers in a repetitive or rapid manner will occur in its moderate form. Occasional involuntary movements of the knees, ankles, and toes, as well as inversion or eversion of the foot, are possible at this stage as well. Abnormal movements of the neck and shoulders and hip rocking and twisting are other components of a moderate form of Tardive Dyskinesia.

Severe Signs
In severe cases, facial features can become permanently disfigured, as well as limbs and trunks. The respiration muscles may also be affected, resulting in grunts, breathing difficulties, incapability of swallowing and speaking. Sometimes, the legs can be so severely affected that walking becomes difficult in this stage.

Paying attention to your body and its functions is imperative when taking any medication. Whether prescribed or over-the-counter, it’s important to research all ingredients and side effects, then compare which is the right choice for you.

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SOURCES:, Medications That Cause Tardive Dyskinesia, Feb. 22, 2018, Tardive Dyskinesia, Feb. 22, 2018


Tia Muhammad, BS, is an award-winning freelance content & media creative, copywriter, blogger, digital designer, and marketing consultant. She owns the boutique content and digital media company, jackieGLDN|studio.