What Is Saint Vitus' Dance?


Quick Answer

Also known as Sydenham chorea, Saint Vitus' Dance is a major symptom of rheumatic fever, according to MedlinePlus. It is characterized by jerky, uncontrollable movements that occur only when awake, loss of fine motor control, and inappropriate laughter, crying or other emotions. It may be accompanied by other symptoms.

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Full Answer

To treat Saint Vitus' Dance, a doctor generally tries to eliminate rheumatic fever through antibiotics, states MedlinePlus. In severe cases, patients may need to be sedated to keep their limbs under control. Saint Vitus' Dance usually only lasts a few months, but in rare cases it may reappear later in life. It is sometimes preceded by a sore throat several weeks before other symptoms appear.

Saint Vitus' Dance is rare in the modern world, according to Patient.co.uk. Its decrease is attributed to penicillin, improved social conditions and the reduction in rheumatic fever rates. While it afflicts both genders, it is more common in pre-pubescent girls and may have a genetic component. It is sometimes the only symptom of rheumatic fever.

Saint Vitus' Dance may not appear in a patient until as much as six months after the initial infection, reports Patient.co.uk. As of 2015, there is no single diagnostic test for Saint Vitus' Dance.

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