A movement disorder is a disease or condition that affects your ability to move and to control your body’s movements. Most movement disorders are more common in people who are 40 or older. There are many different types of movement disorders. Common types of movement disorders include:

  • Parkinson’s disease. This neurological disease that causes cells in a certain area of the brain to die. These cells produce dopamine, a chemical that has several functions. This loss of dopamine in the brain causes never cells to fire out of control. People with Parkinson’s disease may tremble severely, become stiff and have trouble controlling movement.
  • Secondary Parkinsonism (also called atypical Parkinsonism). This refers to any condition that causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but is caused by something else. These conditions may not respond to the treatments used for Parkinson’s disease.
  • Essential tremor. This condition causes uncontrollable shaking in the hands, arms head and other body parts. The shaking can make it hard to write, tie your shoes or do other basic activities. Many people develop essential tremor as they get older and it can be inherited.
  • Dystonia. This disorder causes your muscles to contract, resulting in twisting and other involuntary movements. The movements can be painful, and can affect one muscle or several. Dystonia is caused by damage to the basal ganglia, a region at the base of the brain. Trauma, a tumor, stroke, some drugs or other factors can cause the damage.
  • Huntington’s disease. This inherited condition causes unsteady and uncontrollable movements in the hands, feet and face, and mental illness symptoms. Huntington’s disease gets worse with time and eventually interferes with walking and talking.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Movement disorders cannot be identified with a specific test and are instead identified by conducting a neurological exam that includes observation of walking, talking and moving, and how a person controls their facial expression. Symptoms, medical history and a family history of movement disorders will also be reviewed and discussed with the patient.

Some test can help rule out conditions that cause similar symptoms, such as stroke. Blood samples or spinal fluid may be taken. An electromyogram (EMG) or an electroencephalogram (EEG) may be performed to monitor the electrical activity of the brain. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or other imaging techniques can help doctors see damage in and around the brain.

Depending on your disorder, age, and other factors, treatment options might include:

  • Medication. A number of medicine are used to treat movement disorders.
  • Deep brain stimulation (DMS). This procedure uses a device called a neurostimulator to deliver electrical signals to the areas of the brain that control movement, pain, mood, weight and awakening. DMS is used to treat Parkinson’s disease and some other movement disorders.
  • Thalamatomy. This surgery destroys a tony part of the brain called the thalamus. A MRI or other imaging techniques help pinpoint the exact location for treatment. The surgeon inserts a hollow probe through a small hole drilled in the skull and liquid nitrogen flows insert the probe, making the probe extremely cold. The probe is used to destroy the thalamus.
  • Lesioning. Lesioning uses heat, radiation or other methods to injure tiny, precise areas of the brain. The lesions are painless and can prevent the area of the brain from causing your symptoms. Lesioning, also called ablative brain surgery, is used to treat Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and other movement disorders.