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chorea (kərēˈə, kō–) or St. Vitus's dance, acute disturbance of the central nervous system characterized by involuntary muscular movements of the face and extremities. The disease, known also as Sydenham's chorea (not to be confused with Huntington's disease, a hereditary disease of adults that is sometimes called Huntington's chorea), is usually, but not always, a complication of rheumatic fever. Sydenham's chorea, a disease of children, especially females, usually appears between the ages of 7 and 14. Facial grimacing and jerking movements persist for 6 to 10 weeks and sometimes recur after months or even years. Eventually the symptoms disappear. Although there is no specific treatment, sedatives and tranquilizers are helpful in suppressing the involuntary movements. Technically, it is sometimes called chorea minor or juvenile chorea to distinguish it from several less common choreas, chorea also being a general term for continuous, involuntary jerking movements.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a form of hyperkinesia characterized by rapid movements such as twitching of the extremities, winking, and smacking of the lips. It is associated with organic injury to certain subcortical sections of the brain. The most common form is chorea minor, or Sydenham’s chorea, usually found in children and adolescents as an indication of rheumatism. In addition to hyperkinesia, other characteristics of chorea are low muscle tone and such asthenic symptoms as sleeplessness, lacrimation, and irritability. Sydenham’s chorea usually takes a favorable course, but recurrences are possible. The condition known as chorea major, marked by hysterical choreiform twitchings that were observed as a mass phenomenon in the Middle Ages, is now of historical interest only.

Huntington’s chorea (described in 1872 by the American psychiatrist G. Huntington) is a hereditary degenerative disease transmitted as an autosomal dominant trait. It usually occurs between the ages of 35 and 40 and is characterized by chronic progressive deterioration. Muscle tone is low in some cases, and high (with muscular rigidity) in others. The principal characteristics of Huntington’s chorea are such forms of mental deterioration as apathy, loss of memory, intellectual decline, transient delusions, hallucinations, and the gradual development of severe dementia. Other findings in Huntington’s chorea include subcortical lesions and atrophy of the brain cortex.

Sydenham’s chorea is treated with antirheumatic drugs (including salicylates), sedatives, and antiallergens (such as diphenhydramine and chloropyramine). Chlorpromazine and reserpine are prescribed for Huntington’s chorea; drugs used in the case of muscular rigidity include cholinolytic agents (such as trihexyphenidyl hydrochloride), L-dopa, and amantadine hydrochloride.


Anosov, N. N. “Khoreia Khantingtona.” In Mnogotomnoe rukovodstvopo nevrologii, vol. 7. Leningrad, 1960.
Tsuker, M. B. Infektsionnye zabolevaniia nervnoi sistemy u detei. Moscow, 1963.
Hittyk, L. S. Mala khoreia. Kiev, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A nervous disorder seen as part of a syndrome following an organic dysfunction or an infection and characterized by irregular, involuntary movements of the body, especially of the face and extremities.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a disorder of the central nervous system characterized by uncontrollable irregular brief jerky movements
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
In pre-antibiotic era it is rare now due to decline in Rh fever which was a major cause of Chorea Gravidarum before.
Chorea gravidarum. Arch Intern Med 1932;49:471-533.
Two patients were diagnosed with chorea gravidarum. Another case was diagnosed as Wilson's disease.