When do symptoms of dystonia occur?


In some individuals, symptoms of a dystonia appear in the childhood, approximately between the ages of 5 years and 16 years, usually in the foot or the hand. In generalized dystonia, the involuntary dystonic movements may progress quickly to involve all limbs and the torso, but the rate of progression usually slows noticeably after adolescence.

For other individuals, the symptoms emerge in late adolescence or early adulthood. In these cases, the dystonia often begins in upper body parts, with symptoms progressing slowly. A dystonia that begins in adulthood is more likely to remain as a focal or segmental dystonia.

Dystonias often progress through various stages. Initially, dystonic movements are intermittent and appear only during voluntary movements or stress. Later, individuals may show dystonic postures and movements while walking and ultimately even while they are relaxed. Dystonic motions may lead to permanent physical deformities by causing tendons to shorten.

In secondary dystonias due to injury or stroke, people often have abnormal movements of just one side of the body, which may begin at the time of the brain injury or later. Symptoms generally plateau and do not usually spread to other parts of the body.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Symptoms of dystonia can occur due to brain damage at birth, due to hypoxia, or due to brain hemorrhage. Dystonia can be caused by certain medications. Dystonia can also be due to genetic causes, or it can be idiopathic, meaning there is no clear cause of the dystonia.

They can occur in childhood or adulthood and can have a variety of causes. Task-specific dystonias like writer's cramp can be surprisingly common, but other causes such as familial dystonia are rare. One can have dystonia as a complication of a stroke or intracranial hemorrhage. Trauma or overuse of a limb such as some of the task-specific focal dystonias that musicians might get may also precipitate dystonias.

Dystonia can occur in children and adults of all ages. There are numerous types of dystonia and numerous potential causes—for example, genetic mutations, brain injury, exposure to certain medications and specific neurological and metabolic disease. Certain types of dystonia only occur when a person attempts a specific movement such as writing or playing an musical instrument.

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.