A look at the big picture

Tardive dyskinesia affects an estimated 500,000 persons in the United States. About 60% to 70% of cases are mild, and about 3% are extremely severe. Particularly at risk are patients who have been treated for schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder. Persistent and irreversible tardive dyskinesia is most likely to develop in older persons.

Significance questioned

Tardive dyskinesia’s relative significance as a clinical problem and the need for treatment have been questioned since the disorder was first recognized, according to Stanley N. Caroff, MD, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, in a recent article in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. Tardive dyskinesia had been thought to be uncommon and restricted to patients with chronic mental illness, but recent evidence has shown that anyone exposed to dopamine-receptor blocking drugs, not just persons with chronic mental illness, may be at risk.