Sydenham's chorea (also known as "Saint Vitus Dance") is a disease characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements affecting primarily the face, feet and hands. SC results from childhood infection with Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococci and is reported to occur in 20-30% of patients with rheumatic fever (RF). The disease is usually latent, occurring up to 6 months after the acute infection, but may occasionally be the presenting symptom of RF. SC is more common in females than males and most patients are children, below 18 years of age. Adult onset of SC is comparatively rare and most of the adult cases are associated with exacerbation of chorea following childhood SC.
SC is characterised by the acute onset (sometimes a few hours) of motor symptoms, classically chorea, usually affecting all limbs. Other motor symptoms include facial grimacing, hypotonia, loss of fine motor control and a gait disturbance. Fifty percent of patients with acute SC spontaneously recover after 2 to 6 months whilst mild or moderate chorea or other motor symptoms can persist for up to and over 2 years in some cases (for example a patient in the UK who has suffered the illness since 1999) Sydenham's is also associated with psychiatric symptoms with obsessive compulsive disorder being the most frequent manifestation. It is related to other illnesses such as Lupus and Tourette's.
Movements cease during sleep, and the disease usually resolves after several months. It is associated with post-streptococcal rheumatic fever, pregnancy, hyperthyroidism, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
It is named for British physician Thomas Sydenham, (1624-1689).
Below is the video of a child with Sydenham's chorea