What is it?

Dystonia is a motoric symptom in which some muscles contract involuntarily, causing twisting or repetitive movements. Dystonia can be either focal, and affect only one one part of the body (like the hand, head or neck), segmental- which involves several body parts or general dystonia. Many times, dystonia is caused due to drug use. In other cases, it may be the result of other medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Wilson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, perinatal injury, stroke, brain tumor, oxygen deprivation, carbon monoxide poisoning, and infections. Dystonia may cause serious physical disabilities, and interfere greatly in daily life.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Generalized dystonia
- Orofacial dystonia
- Torsion dystonia

Signs & symptoms

Dystonia symptoms include muscle contractions. These contractions may occur in a single area, or in multiple body parts, during a certain activity, or not. Certain areas which tend to get affected include the neck (causing twisting of the head), eyelids (causing blepharospasm), jaw, tongue, voice box (causing whispering voice), hand and forearm (usually while writing or playing an instrument- writer’s dystonia or musician’s dystonia).

Diagnosis

Dystonia diagnosis is based mainly on physical examination. Blood or urine tests may be done to look for drug levels, CT or MRI may be done to look for structural abnormalities in the head, EMG to measure the electrical activity within the muscles, and genetic testing if a genetic syndrome is suspected.

Treatment

Dystonia does not have a cure, and the treatment is symptomatic, to alleviate the effect on the patient’s life. Medications such as carbidopa- levodopa, diazepam, clonazepam may be suggested as well as botulinum injections into the specific muscles. Physical therapy, speech therapy and stretching are recommended as well. If symptoms are severe, deep brain stimulation or selective denervation surgery may be an option as well.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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