How long will Sydenham’s Chorea last?

The movement disorder (chorea) almost always settles down either on its own or with the help of medication. This can take months or even longer and varies from patient to patient. Symptoms can vary over this time, for example the movement disorder is often more noticable if the child is tired or unwell.

The movement disorder can recur later in childhood (a relapse), but once again this will settle down over time. Older medical papers and textbooks suggest that one in five children with Sydenham’s Chorea will have at least one relapse during childhood. Many doctors now feel this may be an under-estimate. It is very rare for patients to have relapses during adulthood, although it is recognised to occur during pregnancy (Chorea Gravidarum) and in association with the oral contraceptive pill.

Unfortunately little is known about the long term effect of behaviour and mood in children who have had Sydenham’s Chorea. In the majority of cases, the young person will make a full recovery after about two years, with no long lasting symptoms, and will not require on-going treatment or follow-up. However, some children may experience behavioural and emotional changes that may start before and carry on after the movement disorder and may require on-going support from a Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service. These changes may come and go and in some cases there are underlying changes in the brain which can persist into adult life. The symptoms that affect a child’s mental health may need help and treatment over a longer period of time than the chorea.