Sydenham chorea or chorea minor is a movement disorder associated with rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that may happen after a group A streptococcus bacterial infection (such as strep throat). Rheumatic fever is most common in 5- to 15-year-old children, though it can develop in younger children and adults. Although strep throat is common, rheumatic fever is rare in the United States and other developed countries. However, rheumatic fever remains common in many developing nations. Sydenham chorea may occur in a child who currently has rheumatic fever or has already had it. In some individuals, this may be the only sign of rheumatic fever. It most often occurs in girls before puberty.
Symptoms of Sydenham chorea may include jerky, uncontrollable twitches or movements which often disappear during sleep, loss of fine motor control particularly of the hands and fingers, changes in handwriting may be seen, and loss of emotional control with uncontrollable fits of laughing or crying. In addition, a person may also have other symptoms of rheumatic fever which may include fever, abdominal pain, joint pain, nosebleeds, skin rashes and nodules, and heart problems which may not show symptoms. There may also be a history of a sore throat for several weeks before the chorea begins. Blood tests may be useful in looking for signs of rheumatic fever and/or strep throat. Treatment is based on symptoms and the use of antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing the rheumatic fever. Sydenham chorea usually goes away in a few months and complete recovery is expected. In rare cases, chorea may show up later in life. It is important to monitor a child’s sore throat closely to prevent complications and be use extra caution if there is a family history of rheumatic fever. If your child has been diagnosed with Sydenham chorea or rheumatic fever, talk with your child’s doctor about the most current treatment options.