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    What Is Tardive Dyskinesia?

    Tardive dyskinesia is a sometimes-permanent side effect of antipsychotic medications. These drugs are used to treat schizophrenia and other mental health disorders.

    TD causes stiff, jerky movements of your face and body that you can't control. You might blink your eyes, stick out your tongue, or wave your arms without meaning to do so.

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    Not everyone who takes medicine to treat a mental health problem will get TD. If you do have unusual movements, your doctor can lower the dose or switch you to a different drug to relieve your symptoms.


    Antipsychotic meds treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other brain conditions. They’re also called neuroleptic drugs.

    They work by blocking a brain chemical called dopamine. It helps cells talk to each other and makes the muscles move smoothly. When you have too little of it, your movements can become jerky and out of control.

    You can get TD if you take an antipsychotic drug, usually for 3 months or more. But there've been rare cases of it after a single dose of an antipsychotic medicine. Older drugs called "typical antipsychotics" are more likely to cause these movements than newer "atypical" ones. Some studies find a similar risk between both types, though.

    Typical antipsychotics include:

    Your chances of getting TD go up the longer you take an antipsychotic medicine.

    Some drugs that treat nausea, reflux, and other stomach problems can also cause TD if you take them for more than 3 months. These include:

    You're more likely to get it if you:

    • Are a woman who has gone through menopause
    • Are over 55 years old
    • Abuse alcohol or drugs
    • Are African-American or Asian-American


    Tardive dyskinesia causes stiff, jerky movements that you can't control. Often these are in your face -- namely your lips, jaw, or tongue.

    If you have it you might:

    • Stick out your tongue without trying
    • Blink your eyes fast
    • Chew
    • Smack or pucker your lips
    • Puff out your cheeks
    • Frown
    • Grunt

    It can also affect your arms, legs, fingers, and toes. That can cause you to:

    • Wiggle your fingers
    • Tap your feet
    • Flap your arms
    • Thrust out your pelvis
    • Sway from side to side

    These movements can be fast or slow. You may find it hard to work and stay active.

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