What is dystonia?

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Dystonia is a movement disorder characterized by persistent or intermittent muscle contractions causing abnormal and often repetitive movements, postures, or both. The movements are usually patterned and twisting, and may resemble a tremor. Dystonia is often initiated or worsened by voluntary movements, and symptoms may “overflow” into adjacent muscles.

There are multiple forms of dystonia, and dozens of diseases and conditions may include dystonia as a symptom. Dystonia may affect a single body area or be generalized throughout multiple muscle groups. Dystonia affects men, women and children of all ages and backgrounds. Estimates suggest that no fewer than 300,000 people are affected in the United States and Canada alone. Dystonia causes varying degrees of disability and pain, from mild to severe. There is not yet a cure, but multiple treatment options exist and scientists around the world are actively pursuing research toward new therapies.

Although there are several forms of dystonia and the symptoms may outwardly appear quite different, the element that all forms share is the repetitive, patterned and often twisting involuntary muscle contractions. Dystonia is a chronic disorder, but the vast majority of dystonias do not have an impact on cognition or intelligence, nor shorten a person's life span.
Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine
Dystonias are movement disorders in which sustained muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures. The movements, which are involuntary and sometimes painful, may affect a single muscle; a group of muscles such as those in the arms, legs, or neck; or the entire body. Those with dystonia usually have normal intelligence and no associated psychiatric disorders.
Dystonia is a very general term that encompasses any involuntary movements or twisting. Typically, muscle relaxants may be prescribed to treat dystonia that does not have other complications or underlying causes. Dystonia by itself is not a definite indicator of Parkinson¬ís. A person with Parkinson¬ís may exhibit dystonia as a symptom. However, having dystonia does not necessarily mean you have Parkinson’s. You should talk with your doctor about your concerns and have him run additional tests if you are concerned about Parkinson’s.

Dystonia is a disorder in which people experience uncontrollable muscle spasms that force the body into uncomfortable positions. Symptoms can range in severity, making daily activities a challenge. There are two forms of dystonia, generalized and focal. Generalized dystonia impacts the whole body while focal dystonia impacts a specific part of the body, such as the neck or arm.

Dystonia is a disorder in which people experience uncontrollable muscle spasms that force the body into uncomfortable positions. Symptoms can range in severity, making daily activities a challenge. There are two forms of dystonia, generalized and focal. Generalized dystonia impacts the whole body while focal dystonia impacts a specific part of the body, such as the neck or arm.

Continue Learning about Dystonia

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.
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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.