Akathisia: Symptoms, causes and treatments
Akathisia is a movement disorder that is characterized by restlessness, an urgent need to be in permanent movement. Swing when sitting or standing, crossing and uncrossing the legs and moving the feet as if walking while sitting. People who suffer from this disorder are not able to remain calm and seated.
This condition is known to be a side effect and about 70% of people who are taking medications are likely to acquire this condition. This is most evident in the first week after medications are started first. A lot of people who realize that they may have this condition usually panic and become more anxious.
Types of Akathisia
The types of this condition can be divided into different types based on the time since the condition begins to occur.
- Tardive akathisia – This usually develops a few months or years after the medication causing the disease was taken.
- Acute akathisia – This means that the condition was experienced immediately and that it would last for half a year or more.
- Chronic akathisia – The condition lasts for more than 6 months after the medications are taken.
Main causes of Akathisia
Akathisia is caused by taking certain types of medications. This means that the drugs are causing a totally different effect than what they are supposed to do. There was a time when almost everyone who took the antipsychotic medication suffers from this condition due to the strong ingredients that can be found, but as the tools used to create new drugs are improved, the side effects experienced by people that they also have visibly diminished.
However, this does not mean that people will not be afflicted with this condition anymore.
These are some types of medications that can cause akathisia to occur:
This is known as an antidepressant. This ensures that you have serotonin in the system so that you will begin to feel better. A known drug that falls under this category is Prozac. The drugs that fall under this category are not meant to be for a long period of time.
This is the kind of medication that normally acts as tranquilizers in order to calm people who feel a little restless or anxious about the things that are happening. Ironically, this type of medication can have akathisia as one of its side effects. This renounces its purpose. Some of the medications found in this type of drug are haloperidol or risperidone.
This type of medication is usually taken by people suffering from allergies, but sometimes, the strength of the components can be too much and cause akathisia. The antihistamines that contain diphenyhydramine can cause akathisia.
This is a type of medication that is normally given to people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Some studies show that it can cause akathisia.
Apart from medications, there are also other possible reasons why it is possible to experience akathisia.
Withdrawal of certain medications
For people who taken barbiturates and opiates, the absence of these medications can already cause negative effects on the body. A lot of people become addicted to these medications and once the withdrawal begins to take effect, akathisia can develop.
Withdrawal from drinking alcohol
Another possible cause of the acquisition of akathisia is abstinence from alcohol. There are some people who only drink alcohol regularly and when they suddenly stop, the body looks for alcohol. If you are trying to get rid of your alcohol addiction, stopping yourself from drinking alcohol should be done in a gradual manner. Decrease your alcohol consumption little by little and that will make a big difference. It will also decrease the possibility of acquiring this condition.
Symptoms of Akathisia
How do you suspect that you have this condition? This will help if you know the symptoms of this condition. If you always feel the need to move and feel a bit restless compared to before taking some medications, you need to know other symptoms to see your suspicions.
- Change the weight from one leg to another when you are standing.
- Walk in place.
- Dragging your feet while walking.
- Normally you feel the need to lift your feet when walking similar to a march.
- When you sit down, you find yourself crossing and uncrossing your legs several times.
- Normally swing forward and backward if you are sitting or standing.
- Restless when they are obliged to remain motionless.
- When touching your feet.
- Frequent changes of position, whether sitting or standing.
Apart from your legs and your general feeling of restlessness, you will probably feel tense all the time. From panicking for the simplest reasons, even if you know that the problems can be resolved later. Would you like to get the things you want at the time as soon as possible?
Tardive Akathisia and Dyskinesia – Are there differences?
Tardive Akathisia and Dyskinesia are both movement disorders. This is the reason why some doctors tend to confuse Tardive akathisia for Dyskinesia. There are some differences that can distinguish one condition from the other.
Tardive Dyskinesia usually affects certain parts of the body such as the arms, trunk and face while Akathisia usually affects the legs. Another obvious difference is that people with akathisia are aware that they are moving and become upset because of the movements they make because they can not help themselves. Those who have tardive Dykinesia on the other hand are not aware that they are doing involuntary movements.
To be correctly diagnosed by the doctor, patients must be completely honest with all the symptoms they are experiencing.
Another condition that is considered similar to Acatisia is restless legs syndrome, but unlike the previous one, which usually manifests when a person is about to sleep, akathisia is usually characterized by having controlled movements that can occur if the person is about to sleep or not.
That the people are diagnosed with akathisia, doctors often use the Barnes Akathisia Rating Scale (BARS). The doctor will usually ask the patient to sit down and make some considerations based on the questions that are written on the scale. This scale is not only used to see if the patient has this condition, they can also check the severity of the condition. This scale is useful to determine if the person is really suffering from akathisia or may have other similar conditions.
Treatments for Akathisia
This condition is somewhat difficult to treat because this is the drug – induced. If you have developed akathisia, it is highly recommended to tell your doctor about it so that he can start your treatment in time as soon as possible.
Adjust the dose – If, in case your condition started when the dose of the medication you have to take is increased by your doctor, the medication can be adjusted again so that akathisia can be avoided. This can be a bit tricky since the dose has to be enough to work well for you and not so much that you will have to develop akathisia.
Stop taking your medication – This is not something that should be done without your doctor’s approval, especially if your condition is sensitive and you need the drug to work well every day. There is a possibility that your doctor will allow you to stop taking the medication for a certain period of time just to see if it is the medication that developed mainly akathisia.
Take anticholinergics – These medications are taken in order to prevent some neurotransmitters from transmitting to other parts of the body. This type of medication is usually prescribed for people who suffer from nominal sleeping sickness and problems with digestion, but which works for some people who are diagnosed with akathisia.
Change your medications – The doctor may recommend that you take a medication similar to the one that caused your akathisia. This can be effective to delay the progression.
Change in diet and lifestyle – What foods do you normally eat? If you want to improve your condition, it is recommended to take foods rich in vitamin B6. This can help decrease the severity of your symptoms. Get Vitamin B6 to eat potatoes, meat and turkey. Inform your doctor if you see that your symptoms have improved.
Will akathisia be permanent?
This is usually the concern of many people who are diagnosed with this condition. If this worries you too, remember that this condition can be temporary or permanent. If this condition started mainly because the medications you have taken then stop the drugs or the change will help you get rid of the symptoms and allow you to return to normal.
There are times however, when you get akathisia, due to withdrawal of the drug. If this is the case, suddenly stopping yourself from taking these medications will only help worsen your condition. Everything will depend on how well your doctor and you will handle the diagnosis and the treatments that you should do.
There are some people who get severe akathisia so even if they stopped taking the medications years ago, they still get symptoms of the disease, although it is not too serious, compared to when they were still taking the medications that caused their akathisia to appear in the first place.
Some things to remember
- Acatisia is not contagious. It is a condition related to the drug.
- People do not choose to be afflicted with this condition. Some do it because of the strength of the medications which they have to take.
- The amount of time that people have this condition will depend on how serious their conditions are. Mild cases usually stop when medications stop, but there are also some that can last up to half a year. When a person has the condition for more than 6 months, this means that they already have acute akathisia.
- You should not take medications that are not prescribed by your doctor. If you do this, you may develop some symptoms that will not be good for your health at all. Some medications can have adverse effects on your mental health.
- It is better to consult your doctor immediately after you notice that the symptoms of akathisia because the previous one that is diagnosed and treated, the better your chances of recovering from this condition.
With all the things you have learned about akathisia, it is expected that you have more information about your condition or the condition of someone you know. Take a look at the treatments to see which one works best for you.