Recently, I heard that antipsychotic medications can cause something called tardive dyskinesia. What exactly is it?
Tardive dyskinesia is a nervous system disorder that causes repeated movements, especially of the mouth — such as twisting of the tongue and smacking of the lips — that a person can't control. The condition is usually caused by long-term use of older types of antipsychotic (neuroleptic) drugs used to treat some mental health conditions — such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder — and certain symptoms of conditions such as dementia. Tardive dyskinesia can also be caused by the anti-nausea drug, metoclopramide.
The risk of tardive dyskinesia is highest for adults age 55 and up and for those who've taken antipsychotics or certain other drugs for a long time.
Although some drug-related movement disorders start soon after a person starts taking a drug and stop when the drug is stopped, that's not the case with tardive dyskinesia. The word "tardive" (late) refers to the fact that the condition's symptoms usually start after a person has used a drug for a long time and continue for at least a month after the person has stopped taking the drug. It's common for the condition to first appear when a person starts taking a lower dose of an antipsychotic drug, switches to a less powerful drug or stops taking a drug.
Treatment may involve stopping the drug that's causing tardive dyskinesia and switching to a different drug. Some treatments can also ease tardive dyskinesia symptoms if they're bothersome.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Sometimes symptoms don't totally go away, even after a person stops taking the drug.
Talk to a doctor if you notice symptoms of tardive dyskinesia. Early treatment may help limit its effects.
June 04, 2019
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- Tarsy D, et al. Tardive dyskinesia: Etiology, risk factors, clinical features, and diagnosis. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed April 8, 2019.
- Ferri FF. Tardive dyskinesia. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2019. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 26, 2019.
- Mental health medications. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml. Accessed April 8, 2019.
- Tarsy D. Tardive dyskinesia: Prevention, prognosis, and treatment. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed April 9, 2019.