We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Sydenham's Chorea?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Sydenham’s chorea is a complication that may occur with strep throat if this illness develops into acute rheumatic fever (ARF). It isn’t a very common illness in most developed countries because there is access to diagnostic tools and antibiotics to treat strep in its early stages. Where these are unavailable or when strep diagnosis is missed, about 20% of ARF cases can develop this complication of rheumatic fever. This illness is significant, causing sudden muscle movements that may be violent and dramatic changes to mood, cognition or behavior. There is treatment, and many people with this condition fully recover given the right medical assistance.

The presence of strep bacteria is thought to cause the body to produce an autoimmune response that begins to negatively affect some forms of healthy function. Inflammation in some parts of the brain and in other areas may result, and this is paired with higher than normal production of certain antigens. While total cause of Sydenham’s chorea is not completely understood, it is certain that the body’s response to strep germs tends to be medically negative, which can lead to the symptoms associated with this condition.

The first symptoms of Sydenham’s chorea usually occur after certain manifestations of acute rheumatic fever are present. These are fever, inflammation in the heart, joint swelling and pain, rash, and swelling or nodes that develop around some of the joints. ARF symptoms occur an average of two months after incidence of strep throat, but sometimes it can take much longer for these symptoms to develop.

When Sydenham’s chorea develops as a complication of ARF, there are many symptoms that may indicate it. As mentioned, sudden violent movements, often called choreic movements, can occur. Various areas of the body may have difficulty moving smoothly, and people may seem overly clumsy or they can have difficulty performing fine motor tasks like writing. Sometimes facial grimacing or gestures appear and these may be most active when people are awake and excited.

Things like speech can also be affected, and mood and cognition are definitely impacted. People may have outbursts of emotion, be difficult to comfort, have a hard time concentrating, be hyperactive, or show frequent confusion. There may be some regression in maturity levels, most noted when this illness impacts children and teens. Some people also experience psychotic episodes when they have Sydenham’s chorea.

There are two treatment approaches to managing these symptoms. The first is to get the strep infection cleared with antibiotics, though this may not cause chorea symptoms to disappear right away. Especially to tame movement disorders, certain anticonvulsants, like valproic acid (Depakote®) are often recommended. As the antibiotic fights strep and the body recovers, continued medication is generally discontinued.

While the more overt signs of Sydenham’s chorea are usually cured in a few months, some people have recurrence of the illness some years later, which isn’t common. Doctors advocate for preventing ARF by paying attention to illnesses that may be strep throat. Strep throat needs early treatment to avoid progression to ARF.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.