How does status dystonicus affect me if I have dystonia?

Rarely, patients with dystonic symptoms develop increasingly frequent and intense episodes of severe generalized dystonia called status dystonicus. A single episode of this severe dystonia may be referred to as a dystonic storm or dystonic attack.

Although the exact numbers are not known, anecdotal accounts suggest that relatively mild to moderate dystonic storms are a fairly regular experience for some individuals with generalized dystonia, especially secondary dystonias. Most cases of severe status dystonicus occur in persons who have generalized dystonia that is complicated by other conditions such as metabolic disease, secondary effects of a traumatic injury or additional neurological conditions.

If a person's swallowing or breathing is affected by a dystonic storm, he or she may require emergency medical attention. In very severe cases, individuals may be admitted to an intensive care unit setting where they may be sedated with medication or need temporary mechanical ventilation to support breathing.

Although the exact origins of status dystonicus are not known, some documented cases appear to be triggered by an abrupt change in medication or severe infections. Medications and botulinum toxin may be used to reduce or alleviate symptoms of a severe dystonic storm. Individuals experiencing a relatively mild or moderate dystonic storm may have a specific medication prescribed by a doctor to take at the onset of the attack or may simply wait for the symptoms to subside.

Continue Learning about Dystonia


When your muscles contract involuntarily, the condition is called dystonia. Dystonia causes a twisting or clenching of whatever body part is affected. For example, when you have a stroke, the affected arm and hand may be clenched ...

and held in a strange position. Dystonia can be very mild or very severe. It can make your life very difficult and this can lead to frustration, depression or anxiety. See your doctor to treat your symptoms and talk over your frustrations.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.