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Dystonia

Introduction to Dystonia

Dystonia is a neurological condition causing involuntary muscle contractions and spasms affecting movement of the limbs and causing abnormal postures and patterns of movement. If the onset of dystonia is during adulthood it is usually confined to the affected area e.g. a leg, arm, or the neck. However, if the condition starts in children it may spread to other areas of the body over time.

Dystonia is thought to be caused by abnormal signals producing co-contraction of muscles. Dystonia is classified as primary when it is not linked to another condition and is referred to as secondary if there is an identifiable cause such as another neurological condition, medication or trauma.

There are many different types of dystonia including:

  • Cervical dystonia affecting the neck
  • Oromandibular dystonia affecting the face, jaw and tongue
  • Blepharospasm affecting the eye muscles
  • Laryngeal dystonia affecting the vocal cord
  • Young onet or generalised dystonia affecting the legs in children
  • Dopa-responsive dystonia, a rare genetic form
  • Myoclonus dystonia (rapid, jerky movements)
  • Paroxysmal dystonia (short periods of dystonia)
  • Tardive dystonia caused by drugs such as neuroleptic medication
  • Hand dystonia affecting writing

A neurologist will determine whether you have dystonia based on a thorough medical history, tests such electromyography and by excluding other neurological conditions.

Treatment for dystonia may include medication, botulinum toxin injections and surgery such as deep brain stimulation. Physiotherapy treatment can alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with dystonia to maximise your quality of life.

Dystonia

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