Dystonia Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Dystonia Disorder

Dystonia is a movement disorder with uncontrollable muscle contractions. Contractions make the body part twist uncontrollably, causing repetitive movements. Various types of dystonia may affect a single muscle, a group of muscles, or the entire body as a whole. A woman is more likely to develop a disorder than a man, with about 1% of the population affected.

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Difference between dystonia and dyskinesia

There is a close relationship between dystonia and dyskinesia, but they are different disorders.

  • Dyskinesia: It is derived from Greek. “Kinesia” refers to movements that are wrong or occur in an inappropriate way. The word includes the word “kinesis,” which means “movement”. Dyskinesia is the involuntary movement of muscles that is uncontrollable.
  • Dystonia: Dyskinesias of this type are very specific. There is a prolonged tense-up of muscles with dystonia. The way you move or pose can often depend on what part of your body they occur in.

What are the effects of dystonia on my body?

Dystonia affects the control of muscles throughout your body caused by your brain. It affects muscles in various ways. Although this happens for a number of reasons, it remains a mystery. Its symptoms can also be worsened by fatigue, stress, or drinking alcohol.

The cause of some types of this disorder is a genetic mutation or condition that disrupts the functioning of the brain. Consequently, your muscles receive incorrect signals, which results in dystonia.

There are also certain conditions that can cause dystonia, some of which can be detected by certain tests or by imaging scans. Other factors can also contribute to it.

What are the symptoms of dystonia?

Dystonia’s symptoms can range from extremely mild to very severe. Different parts of the body can be affected by disorder, and symptoms often advance through different phases. These are some of the early symptoms:

  • A “dragging leg”
  • Foot cramping
  • Neck pulling
  • Blinking uncontrollably
  • Speech problems

You may experience the symptoms during times of stress or fatigue. The constant contraction of the muscles often causes pain and exhaustion for those suffering with the disorder.

Dystonia symptoms typically first appear in children’s feet or hands. They quickly spread to other areas of the body. The rate of progression slows down after adolescence.

Generally, this starts in the upper body when it appears in early adulthood. It progresses slowly at first. Dystonic disorders that begin in young adulthood will either be focal or segmental: they will either affect one body part or two adjacent body parts.

Read: Stereotypic Movement Disorder

What causes dystonia?

There is no specific cause for dystonia in most cases. The problem with the basal ganglia may be responsible for disorder. This is the area in the brain that triggers muscle contraction. Nerve cells are not communicating properly.

Basal ganglia damage leads to acquired dystonia. It could be caused by:

  • Brain trauma
  • Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Infection
  • Drug reactions
  • Lead and carbon monoxide poisoning

It is common for the disorder to be acquired from a parent with idiopathic dystonia. Carrier of dystonia may not develop their own disorder. There may also be wide variations in symptoms within a family.

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Are there different types of dystonia?

The following body parts are affected by dystonias:

  • A person with generalized dystonia feels twitching throughout their body
  • Persons with focal dystonia feel twitching only in specific places
  • An unrelated body part is affected by multifocal dystonia
  • Similarly, segmental dystonia usually affects the neighboring areas of the body
  • Hemidystonia is a condition in which both arms and legs are affected on the same side

Disorder can be classified as a syndrome based on the pattern it displays:

  • Blepharospasm is a form of dystonia in which the eyes are affected. An uncontrollable blink usually begins the condition. It usually affects one eye at the beginning. However, over time, it generally affects both eyes. It causes the eyelids to unconsciously close. If it continues, they may remain closed. It may not affect the vision. Nevertheless, the person is functionally blind because of this permanent closure of the eyelids.
  • The most common type is cervical dystonia, also known as torticollis. Most people with cervical dystonia are between the ages of 40 and 50. However, people of all ages have been reported to have the condition. It causes the neck muscles to twitch and turn, causing the head to twist or move backwards or forwards.
  • This disorder affects the muscles of the face, head and neck.
  • The muscles of the jaw, lips, and tongue spasm when someone has oromandibular dystonia. This problem can make it hard to speak or swallow.
  • A person with spasmodic dystonia has muscle weakness in the throat, which affects the ability to speak.
  • Tardive dystonia is caused by drug reactions. Symptoms usually resolve on their own within a few days or weeks with medication.
  • Paroxysmal dystonia occurs in episodes. Patients only experience symptoms during attacks. At other times, they are normally unaffected.
  • A rare disorder, Torsion dystonia is chronic contractions of the muscles. An individual with it is severely disabled, as it affects the entire body. Children usually experience symptoms when they are young, which get worse as they grow older.
  • There are other two types: writer’s cramp and typist’s cramp. These types of disorders affect the fingers and/or forearms.

Read: Chronic Motor Tic Disorder

What Is the treatment for dystonia?

The treatment of dystonia consists of several options. According to the type and its severity, the doctor will decide what course of action to take.

Botulinum toxin, commonly referred to as Botox or Xeomin, is a recently introduced treatment. Injections are given to the affected muscles. Acetylcholine is a chemical that produces muscle contractions, and this blockade prevents it. It’s necessary to repeat this injection every three months.

Dystonic debilitation can be treated with deep brain stimulation. The electrode is implanted in an area of the brain where deep brain stimulation is needed. Afterward, it is implanted in the chest with a battery-powered stimulator.

Electric pulses are transmitted from the stimulator through the electrode to reduce muscle contractions. In most cases, the electrical pulses are controlled by the person’s doctor.

Medical treatment can reduce excessive muscle contractions caused by overdrive messages. Some of the medications used include:

  • Levodopa
  • Procyclidine hydrochloride
  • Diazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Clonazepam
  • Baclofen

Another alternative is to use a sensory trick. Using sensory tricks, you can reduce muscle contractions by applying stimulation to the affected part of the body. You can control how long you contract your muscles by simply touching the area.

The symptoms may also be treated with speech therapy, physical therapy or stress management.

Bottom line

When you have dystonia, your brain controls your muscles, causing them to move uncontrollably. There are many reasons why this condition occurs, ranging from genetic conditions to short-term illnesses. This condition can cause mild inconveniences or be severely disruptive, depending on the severity of the symptoms and their spread throughout your body.

Dystonia is not curable, but certain causes can often be treated. When it is caused by a short-term or curable condition, it can go away completely.