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(kərē`ə, kō–) or

St. Vitus's dance,

acute disturbance of the central nervous systemnervous system,
network of specialized tissue that controls actions and reactions of the body and its adjustment to the environment. Virtually all members of the animal kingdom have at least a rudimentary nervous system.
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 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 diseaseHuntington's disease,
hereditary, acute disturbance of the central nervous system usually beginning in middle age and characterized by involuntary muscular movements and progressive intellectual deterioration; formerly called Huntington's chorea.
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, a hereditary disease of adults that is sometimes called Huntington's chorea), is usually, but not always, a complication of rheumatic feverrheumatic fever
, systemic inflammatory disease, extremely variable in its manifestation, severity, duration, and aftereffects. It is frequently followed by serious heart disease, especially when there are repeated attacks. Rheumatic fever usually affects children.
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. 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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
Most patients with chorea gravidarum are young; the average age is 22 years.
In pre-antibiotic era it is rare now due to decline in Rh fever which was a major cause of Chorea Gravidarum before.
Rheumatic chorea also known as Sydenham's chorea is a delayed complication of group Ap haemolytic streptococcal infections and forms one of the major criteria of acute rheumatic fever.
In recent times, most cases of chorea appearing during pregnancy in developed countries were caused by disease entities like systemic lupus erythematosus.
(91) Rationale diuinorum officiorum 6.86.10, CCCM 140: 445: "Hiis tribus primis diebus, sollempniter est feriandum; in sequentibus uero, licet uiris ruralia opera, que magis sunt necessaria, exercere; sed feminis non licet here, nunquam autern choreas ducere, quia, secundum Gregorium, melius est fodere et arare quam choreas ducere." This expands on Beleth, De eccl.
29, 1:156: "Prohibeant sacerdotes sub pena excommunicationis choreas duci in cimiterio vel in ecclesiis: monant etiam ne alibi fiant, qui ut dicit beams Augustinus, "melius est festivis diebus fodere et arare quam choreas ducere.' Quam grave peccatum sit in loco sacro choreas et balationes ducere, perpendi potest ex penitentia secundum rigorem canonum talibus injungenda: si quis balationes ante ecclesias sanctorum fecerit aut duxerit, emendatione pollicita, tribus annis peniteat."
Non sustinebit choreas duci in principio suo extra domum.
Yet according to the Mitralis de Officio of Sicard, bishop of Cremona (1185-1215), composed about 1200, the circular dance (chorea) provides a key metaphor for understanding the liturgy of Easter.