A potential side effect of Risperdal is tardive dyskinesia, a movement disorder much like Tourette syndrome. Over the years, different methods have been used to treat the disorder, including quitting Risperdal in favor of another medication with fewer potential health consequences. However, by far the most effective treatment for tardive dyskinesia is preventing it in the first place.
How Does Risperdal Work?
Risperdal contains risperidone, an atypical antipsychotic ingredient. The medicine influences the brain, where it affects dopamine and serotonin (5HT), neurotransmitters that pass signals between cells.
Dopamine and serotonin help regulate mood and behavior. In many cases, psychotic illnesses are caused by disturbances in the electrical impulses of neurotransmitters (mainly dopamine) in the brain. Schizophrenia has been associated with an overactivity of dopamine in the brain, and this may cause the delusions and hallucinations typical of the disorder. Risperdal works by blocking the brain receptors that dopamine acts on. This theoretically prevents the excessive activity of dopamine and helps control the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Are There Effective Treatments for Risperdal Tardive Dyskinesia?
As stated above, the single most effective treatment for tardive dyskinesia is preventing it in the first place. Because prolonged periods of antipsychotic treatment may pass before symptoms manifest, patients who take Risperdal should see a psychiatrist for periodic evaluations to make sure that any signs of tardive dyskinesia are identified in their early stages. Most psychiatrists use the “Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale” (AIMS) to screen for tardive dyskinesia at least once per year. This can help prevent the disorder before it starts.
The vast majority of tardive dyskinesia cases are moderate and reversible, and the number of individuals who develop severe or irreversible forms of the disorder is quite low. For people who are experiencing the primary symptoms of tardive dyskinesia, the most important thing to do is talk to your doctor. In many cases, lowering the dose of Risperdal may be the most effective treatment. Many people will find that their symptoms improve greatly at lower doses. However, if this does not relieve symptoms, the doctor may recommend switching to another antipsychotic drug with fewer potential health consequences. In some cases, this can also lead to the worsening of psychotic symptoms, which further emphasizes the importance of consulting a physician before making any changes.
Unfortunately, no medication can totally cure tardive dyskinesia. A number of drugs have been researched including benzodiazepines, anticholinergic medications and dietary supplements, but it remains uncertain as to whether any of them can prevent or effectively treat tardive dyskinesia. The antipsychotic clozapine has been reported to have some efficacy in rare cases.