Choreoathetosis: A Rare Condition?

The word “chore” comes from the Greek verb chorro meaning “to wash.” The word choreo- means “a person or thing used for washing,” so it’s a noun describing someone who uses their hands to perform physical labor. And that’s exactly what this condition is! It’s not just a dirty job; it involves repetitive hand movements over long periods of time.

It’s a rare condition that affects less than one percent of the population. However, if left untreated, it can cause problems with your hands and fingers. You might have some pain when doing these activities, but most people don’t notice any symptoms until they get older.

What are the Symptoms?

There aren’t many specific signs or symptoms of choreoathetosis because there isn’t anything wrong with your body that would make you do something like this. Instead, it’s usually caused by stress. It can also happen whenever you’re really focused on something, but it’s not the kind of thing that most people would notice. The movements are usually very small and involve a small number of your muscles. You might only be doing it every so often, or you might be doing it constantly.

If you think you have choreoathetosis, contact a doctor. They can do a few tests that can help them find out for sure. They’ll also want to rule out any other conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, which can cause similar symptoms.

What are the Causes?

We don’t know exactly what causes choreoathetosis yet. Most people just develop it at some point in their lives. If you’re a woman, you have a higher chance of developing it during your childbearing years and pregnancy are also a factor. There is also a genetic component, meaning if other people in your family have it then you might be more likely to get it.

An injury or illness that affects the nervous system can also cause it to develop. If you already have it, these conditions can worsen the symptoms and make them start sooner. Strenuous physical activity (especially involving your hands and wrists) can also trigger it.

How is it Treated?

There’s no cure yet for choreoathetosis, but there are things you can do to manage the symptoms. Your doctor may recommend that you take a break from anything that involves a lot of hand activity and get treatment for any illnesses or injuries that you have.

You can also try some self-care techniques at home. These include:

Massaging your hands and stretching your fingers during or after activity

Taking a break from using your hands every twenty minutes for about five minutes

Using tools that limit the amount of movement in your hands whenever possible. For example, try using a chainsaw instead of a bow saw.

Doing activities like drawing, writing, brushing your teeth, or playing the piano that require similar hand motions to the activity that tends to trigger it. These are called “passive activities” because they engage the hands but don’t over work them.

These techniques may not eliminate the problem, but they can help you control the symptoms and decrease their severity.

Sources & references used in this article:

Familial paroxysmal dystonic choreoathetosis and its differentiation from related syndromes by JW Lance – Annals of Neurology: Official Journal of the …, 1977 – Wiley Online Library

Familial myoclonus epilepsy and choreoathetosis: hereditary dentatorubral‐pallidoluysian atrophy by H Naito, S Oyanagi – Neurology, 1982 – AAN Enterprises

Choreoathetosis, hypothyroidism, and pulmonary alterations due to human NKX2-1 haploinsufficiency by H Krude, B Schütz, H Biebermann… – The Journal of …, 2002 – Am Soc Clin Investig

Familial paroxysmal choreoathetosis: preliminary report on a hitherto undescribed clinical syndrome by LA Mount, S Reback – Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry, 1940 –