What is Dystonia?

Dystonia is a neurological condition characterised by repetitive excessive involuntary muscle contractions which result in abnormal movements and body postures. This condition makes it difficult for patients to control their movements, making it painful to maintain normal posture.

Dystonia can affect the entire body or just one muscle.There are different types of dystonia and they are categorised by the body part they affect.

  • Generalised dystonia affects the entire body or most parts of the body
  • Focal dystonia is limited to a specific area
  • Multifocal dystonia affects more than one area
  • Hemidystonia affects one half or side of the body
  • Segmental dystonia affects adjacent body areas

What are the symptoms of Dystonia?

The symptoms of this condition can vary from mild to severe and they progressively become worse. Some early signs are:

  • Body part is twisted or flexed into an abnormal position
  • Tremor-like repetitive body movements
  • Foot cramps
  • Involuntary pulling of the neck
  • Uncontrollable blinking
  • Speech difficulties
  • Difficult chewing or swallowing

Fatigue and stress are known to make these symptoms worse. People with dystonia become easily fatigued due to the constant involuntary muscle contractions.

What are the causes of Dystonia?

In most cases, the specific cause of this condition is unknown. Dystonia is associated with issues in the basal ganglia, the part of the brain responsible for muscle contractions. The basal ganglia could become damaged due to brain trauma, stroke, oxygen deprivation, tumour, lead or carbon monoxide poisoning or infections. The damage affects the way nerve cells communicate with each other, which is believed to be one of the causes of dystonia.

Treatment of Dystonia

There are some medications which are given to help people with dystonia manage their symptoms. A recent treatment is the use of Botox which is injected into the affected muscle where it helps reduce involuntary contractions. Deep brain simulation is also given to some patients whose conditions have caused them to become disabled. This involves the passing of electrical pulses to the brain to reduce muscle contractions.

Dystonia is a serious condition and requires medical attention. Contact your doctor today for more information on this disorder and how it can be treated.

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