Sydenham Chorea

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What is Sydenham chorea?

Sydenham chorea (SC) is a neurological disorder that happens in childhood. It is caused by the same bacteria that causes rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is a disease that may develop after an infection with group A streptococcus bacteria, such as strep throat or scarlet fever, and can cause severe illness in the heart, joints, skin, and brain.

SC affects girls more often than boys, and usually happens between ages 5 and 15. Symptoms can happen slowly over time or all at once, and may include:

  • Clumsy movements
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stumbling or falling down
  • Not being able to speak clearly
  • Having a hard time focusing or writing
  • Having a hard time keeping emotions stable

Some kids will have a sore throat a few weeks before their symptoms start. SC can also happen up to six months after a child has a fever, or the strep throat infection goes away.

There is no treatment for SC. People that have mild symptoms may feel better with bed rest. Other individuals may need medications to help.

Most children will completely heal from SC. Very few will have symptoms that last for a long time. Symptoms usually last for three to six weeks, but sometimes they can last for months. Some children with SC may have another episode of symptoms after the first illness. This usually happens one and a half to two and a half years later.

Learn About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

How can I or a loved one improve care for people with Sydenham chorea?

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about SC and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with SC at

Where can I find more information about Sydenham chorea?

Information may be available from the following organizations:

Medline Plus

National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD)
Phone: 203-744-0100 or 800-999-6673; 844-259-7178 Spanish

Order publications from the NINDS Catalog
The NINDS Publication Catalog offers printed materials on neurological disorders for patients, health professionals, and the general public. All materials are free of charge, and a downloadable PDF version is also available for most publications.