Tardive Dyskinesia Definition, Reason, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Tardive Dyskinesia Definition, Reason, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention


Tardive dyskinesia is a condition when involuntary or unwanted movements are found which are often not realized. These movements are like twitching, grimacing, or stomping at a person.

This condition can occur as a side effect of neuroleptic medication, which includes anti-psychotic drugs for mental health disorders. Sometimes, neuroleptic medications may also be prescribed for digestive tract disorders.

Neuroleptic drugs work by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical compound that functions to control emotions and the pleasure center in the brain.

Dopamine also plays a role in the motor function of the body. Very low levels of dopamine can affect the muscles and cause signs or symptoms of tardive dyskinesia.

Tardive Dyskinesia Symptoms

Mild to moderate tardive dyskinesia can cause stiff, jerking movements of the face, tongue, lips, and jaw. These movements may include blinking rapidly, tasting or puckering your lips, and sticking out your tongue.

People with moderate tardive dyskinesia may also experience other uncontrollable symptoms in the arms, legs, fingers, and toes.

Meanwhile, tardive dyskinesia with a severe degree can cause body movements to the left and right sides, as well as body unsteadiness. Either fast or slow, the movements associated with tardive dyskinesia can become very disruptive and affect the ability to work, carry out daily activities, and maintain activity.

Tardive Dyskinesia Reason

Tardive dyskinesia most often occurs as a side effect of taking neuroleptic drugs, which are antipsychotic drugs. These medications are prescribed to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and several other mental health conditions.

These medications can also be prescribed to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Even so, not everyone who takes this medication will experience tardive dyskinesia.


Signs and symptoms of tardive dyskinesia are generally not immediately apparent. Sometimes, new symptoms appear months or years after taking neuroleptic drugs.

The diagnosis of tardive dyskinesia can be determined based on medical interviews regarding the complaints that are experienced. In addition, a physical examination is also needed to measure the ability to move.

Doctors can use a scale called the Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale (AIMS). The goal is to evaluate the severity of the movement disorder, the level of consciousness of the person experiencing it when the movement disorder occurs, and the degree of impairment the person feels when experiencing this unwanted movement.

The doctor can also recommend the patient to undergo several supporting examinations if deemed necessary. Generally, blood tests or brain imaging are needed to rule out other possible causes of diseases that can also cause similar signs and symptoms.

Tardive Dyskinesia Treatment

The main goal of treating tardive dyskinesia is the complete prevention of signs and symptoms from returning. This requires regular evaluation from a doctor. In carrying out this evaluation, the doctor will use movement measurements to determine whether a person has tardive dyskinesia or not.

If a person starts showing signs of tardive dyskinesia, the doctor may decide to lower the dose of medication. You can also replace the drug with another drug that has a lower chance of causing this condition.

Doctors can also prescribe medication to regulate dopamine levels in the brain. This technique can help restore movement function and reduce the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia.

The appropriate treatment for tardive dyskinesia depends on several factors, namely:

  • The degree of severity of symptoms of tardive dyskinesia
  • Duration of consumption of treatment
  • Age
  • Medications currently being consumed
  • Associated health conditions, such as neurological disorders


Those taking neuroleptic drugs are strongly advised to check for signs and symptoms of tardive dyskinesia regularly. If there is a tendency towards tardive dyskinesia, several steps can be taken such as stopping treatment, reducing the dose of medication, or changing to other medications.

The best way to prevent tardive dyskinesia is to understand your own body and watch for any unusual signs and symptoms. With early detection, treatment can be done more precisely and quickly.

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