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What is Tardive Dyskinesia (TD)?

TD is a serious side effect that may occur with certain medications used to treat mental illness. TD may appear as repetitive, jerking movements that occur in the face, neck, and tongue. The muscle movements are outside of the patient’s control. The symptoms of TD can be very troubling for patients and family members.

Long-term use of medications called antipsychotics can cause TD. Some medications used for nausea can also cause TD. The symptoms of TD might continue even when the medication is stopped. About one in four patients who receive long-term treatment with an antipsychotic will experience TD.

Anyone taking an antipsychotic may develop TD, but certain factors increase the risk, including those who are elderly, female, have diabetes or have other mental illnesses.

It is important to remember that TD usually happens after taking antipsychotics for a long time. Some patients may have TD after 3 months, but many develop TD after several years of treatment. TD is unlikely to occur if an antipsychotic is only taken for a few weeks.

How Is Tardive Dyskinesia Monitored?

Patients taking long-term antipsychotics should be closely followed by their doctor. Their doctor can perform tests to see if a patient has signs of TD or if TD is improving. These tests should be done routinely at office visits because recognizing TD early may reduce the severity of the side effect.

How Is Tardive Dyskinesia Treated?

Once TD develops, some effects may be permanent or take a long time to go away. However, many patients require long term use of antipsychotic medication to treat ongoing mental illness. If TD develops, the first step is to notify the doctor so the medication can be safely adjusted, stopped or switched. The doctor may choose to switch the patient to a different antipsychotic that may lessen TD. Many available treatments for TD offer some benefit to patients, but response to treatment depends on the patient.

New medications have been developed for TD, but may be too expensive for many patients. In addition to these approved medications, other alternative agents have shown mild benefit in treating TD such as gingko biloba and vitamin E.

Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) Awareness Week is the first full week in May each year. You can learn more about TD, including videos showing what TD looks like and a downloadable discussion guide at TalkAboutTD.com

* The information included in this article was primarily provided as a community outreach effort of the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists for educational and informational purposes.

* Neurocrine Biosciences, Inc. is dedicated to providing education on TD. More information is available on Neurocrine.com/TD-Awareness/, and resources can be accessed at TalkAboutTD.com. These resources can help people understand TD, request support, and have a conversation with their healthcare provider about ways to manage TD, including treatment options. For more information, follow and join the conversation online by sharing #TDAwarenessWeek.