Tardive Dyskinesia
Tardive Dyskinesia
July 22, 2021

Tardive Dyskinesia

Tardive Dyskinesia is a disorder that causes repeated, involuntary movements primarily of the mouth.

Tardive Dyskinesia is a movement disorder that causes repeated, involuntary movements primarily of the mouth, but could also affect arms, legs, neck, or fingers. Typically, Tardive dyskinesia is caused by long term use of a drug that blocks the reception of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain.


Symptoms of Tardive dyskinesia begin gradually and may be very mild and almost unnoticeable at first but can become worse over time. Symptoms may become worse with stress and go away while sleeping. 

Mouth related symptoms include the following involuntary movements:

  1. Sticking tongue out
  2. Moving tongue side to side
  3. Pouting
  4. Smacking lips
  5. Chewing movements
  6. Puffing out cheeks

If severe, these symptoms can make it difficult to eat and talk.

Other symptoms may cause involuntary movements in other body parts such as the neck, arms, legs, and fingers and the respiratory system including the following: 

  1. Rocking back and forth
  2. Tapping foot
  3. Shrugging shoulders
  4. Twisting neck
  5. Hip thrusting
  6. Rapid breathing
  7. Eyelid spasm

Causes of Tardive Dyskinesia

Tardive dyskinesia is most often caused by long term use of antipsychotic drugs, which are used to treat some mental health and cognitive disorders such as bipolar, schizophrenia, and dementia. Older antipsychotic drugs present a higher risk of leading to Tardive dyskinesia. Some anti-nausea medications may cause Tardive dyskinesia as well. 

Risk Factors

The following factors may increase your risk of developing Tardive dyskinesia: 

  1. Length of (dopamine affecting) drug use: 6 months plus 
  2. Older age: 55 and up
  3. Sex: Women are at a higher risk
  4. Experiencing muscle contractions early in taking the drug
  5. Substance abuse increases your risk as well


Early identification of symptoms and treatment is key to help mitigate the effects of this condition. 

  • Change in Medication: The most obvious treatment of Tardive dyskinesia is to stop the drug that is causing the condition. Your doctor may switch you to a different antipsychotic, perhaps a newer type. 
  • Drugs to Reduce Symptoms: Vesicular monoamine transporter 2 inhibitors help to control movements by depleting dopamine. Botox may be used to relax muscles to prevent involuntary movements. 
  • Deep Brain Stimulation: In order to treat very severe Tardive dyskinesia that doesn’t respond to other treatments, electrodes may be implanted in certain areas of the brain to create electric impulse that cells and chemicals in the brain.