Common signs and symptoms of tardive dyskinesia

Tardive dyskinesia is an uncommon movement disorder caused due to the side effects of treatments for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions. It is marked by a series of involuntary body and facial movements. While not everyone who takes this sort of treatment will suffer from tardive dyskinesia, the symptoms can be permanent. It can prevent people from performing simple tasks and can interfere with their quality of life.

The most common signs of tardive dyskinesia are:

Orofacial dyskinesia
Also called oro-bucco-lingual dyskinesia, this can cause:

  • Uncontrolled movements of the lips, jaw, or tongue
  • Sticking out the tongue involuntarily
  • Rapid blinking
  • Smacking of lips
  • Puckering of lips
  • Puffing of cheeks
  • Grimacing
  • Making fish-like mouth movements

Dyskinesia of the limbs
This affects the arms, legs, fingers, and toes and can cause:

  • Wiggling of fingers
  • Tapping of feet
  • Flapping of arms
  • Thrusting out of pelvis
  • Full body swaying
  • Fast, jerking motions of arms or legs
  • Slow, twisting motions of arms or legs

Those who suffer from tardive dyskinesia (TD) can also develop muscle spasms sometimes, where their muscles tighten and do not release. These spasms could vary in duration. One may also make involuntary grunting noises when their muscles spasm. Spasming could also be accompanied by difficulty in breathing and swallowing.

Some doctors could recommend stopping the treatment plan that triggered the TD; but this could result in serious risks. So, those experiencing the symptoms should always consult a medically licensed expert for a viable solution and not try to manage the symptoms on their own as it could lead to other complications.

Moreover, not everyone who receives treatment for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions will suffer from TD. Symptoms of TD might not appear until months or even years after treatment begins. Sometimes, symptoms can appear even after the treatment has been stopped, making it difficult to determine the cause of the symptoms.

To keep TD in check, any treatments related to mental health disorders should be accompanied by Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale (AIMS) at least once a year. This physical exam helps rate any abnormal movements.

Healthcare providers can also do tests to find out whether one has another disorder that causes abnormal movements.

TD can be hard to diagnose since there are other disorders that can mimic its symptoms.

These disorders are:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Tic disorders
  • Wilson’s disease
  • Seizures
  • Essential tremor disorder

While a very small number of people could develop severe symptoms, they rarely are life-threatening.

These symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Dental problems
  • Speech difficulties
  • Permanent facial changes
  • Drooping eyelids or mouth
  • Difficulty in swallowing

TD is unpredictable and as such cannot be prevented. It could intensify during periods of stress and can make one self-conscious, causing them to withdraw from people and stop socializing. This may bring on isolation and anxiety. It could also affect work and put a strain on personal relationships. Early diagnosis can help curb the symptoms or minimize its effect. It is essential to always seek help from a medically licensed professional for correct diagnosis and treatment.