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What Is Hyperkinesia?

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  • Written By: Christina Hall
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 30 March 2014
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Hyperkinesia is a broad term that describes unwanted increased muscular activity that may contribute to a person exhibiting abnormal bodily movements. The condition is often a symptom of a myriad of diseases that give rise to excessive muscular and sometimes neurological restlessness, like Huntington’s disease, for example. A number of hyperkinesia disorders begin in childhood and are linked with certain psychological and developmental disorders like autistic spectrum disorders. Hyperkinesia is a significantly broad term so it is imperative to distinguish movements from each other based on degree, randomness or repetition, and rhythm. In order to determine the origin and prognosis for hyperkinesia, a physician will take a complete medical history focusing on the family’s history of disease, past infections or exposure to toxic chemicals, and past medications or instances of chronic substance abuse.

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One common kinesthetic movement disorder, dystonia, is characterized by sustained contraction of opposing groups of muscles that gives rise to abnormal postures, repetitive movements, and other kinesthetic symptoms. Dystonia can be localized in one muscle group, as is the case with blepharospasm, a condition where there is involuntary contraction of the eyelid that causes strange blinking patterns and even functional blindness. Another dystonia, laryngeal dystonia, is characterized by abnormal contractions in the larynx, or voice box. Patients with the disorder tend to have a “strangled” quality to their voice or can sometimes not vocalize above a whisper. Writer’s or musician’s cramp is characterized as a task-specific dystonia that can eventually overlap into other areas like eating or doing other activities of daily living.

Huntington’s disease, a genetic disorder, is easily recognizable because of its hyperkinesia symptoms. The abnormal movements are called “chorea” when they are present in this specific diagnosis. Chorea are sometimes the first symptoms of the degenerative disease and the severity of the abnormal movements increases over time. Often times, the chorea progress and inhibit the individual’s ability to walk, talk and think in a coherent manner. There is no cure for Huntington’s disease, but some medications help to slow the progression and abate the abnormal movements.

Restless legs syndrome is a hyperkinesia disease. Patients with the disorder feel unpleasant sensations in their legs, leading them to want to move. This can be debilitating because the symptoms are often worse at night and the patient can suffer from significant sleep deprivation. Medications that help to relax the nerves associated with the condition provide relief for some patients.

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