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Dystonia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment


Twisting and turning your body while carrying out your daily activities can prove to be an aching task? It is the fact an estimation of over 3,00,000 North Americans is suffering from these strange body movements.

Well that’s a neurological disorder-‘Dystonia’-meaning an abnormal muscle tone. This is an involuntary, slow and sustained muscles contradiction recurring because of repetitive actions.


The real cause of ‘Dystonia’ is the intense functioning of different parts of the brain. These include the basal ganglia, thalamus, cerebellum and cerebral cortex.

The basal ganglia lie deep within the brain. They are responsible with the regulation of body movement. Most of the cases reflect dysfunction within the basal ganglia or related brain networks.

Normally, a neurologist detects the root cause of dystonia based on the following two classifications.

PRIMARY DYSTONIA: This type of dystonia has no connection with a specific disease or brain injury. This means in simple words, the regular mechanisms for initiating, regulating or transmitting nerve signals are not functioning effectively. Nearly 30-40 percent of children or adolescents develop primary dystonia.

SECONDARY DYSTONIA: This type is directly linked with brain injury caused by stroke, tumor, trauma, toxins or birth injury. Some cases of secondary dystonia are caused by a malfunction in the production of a chemical messenger called dopamine.


In the beginning, the symptoms may be mild or severe. They include involuntary turning of the head, muscle pains and slight neck tremors. Normally, patients tend to experience spasms in the eyelids, face, jaw or hand. Some types of dystonias are progressive. The movements become more bizarre over a period of time. It may also lead to Parkinson disease or Wilson disease.

The signs and symptoms of dystonia are diagnosed on the basis of the functioning of nerves and muscles.

This may be limited to specific:

  • Muscles or muscle groups
  • Parts of the body
  • All parts of the body



This type of dystonia occurs without any known cause. The early symptoms begin between the age of six and twelve years of age. It normally starts in one foot or leg. It may be limited to the trunk. In some cases, it may progress to other pats of the body.


This type of dystonia affects the eyelids. The eyelids are repeatedly and involuntarily shut. The symptoms are excessive blinking, eye irritation, or extreme sensitivity to bright light. In rare cases, people find ways to keep their eyes open.


This type shows signs of painful turning of the neck muscles.


It affects the muscles that control speech. People with this disorder experience spasms of the vocal chord muscles which may block speech altogether or make the voice strained, hoarse, jerky or garbled to understand.


This affects the muscles of the jaw and tongue, causes distortions of the mouth and tongue. The patient may find it difficult to swallow or eat.

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