How Does Dystonia Affect the Human Health?

Muscles contract uncontrollably due to the movement condition dystonia. This may result in jerky or twisting motions.

Segmental dystonia, which can affect two or more nearby sections of your body, focal dystonia, and total body dystonia are all possible manifestations of the illness (general dystonia). Mild to severe muscular spasms are possible. They could hurt, and they might make it difficult for you to carry out your everyday activities.

Dystonia cannot be cured, however, treatment and medicines can lessen symptoms. In patients with severe dystonia, surgery may be utilized to block or control nerves or specific brain areas.

Dystonia: Causes

It is unknown what causes dystonia specifically. Yet, it could entail modifications to how nerve cells in various parts of the brain communicate with one another. Some types of dystonia run in families.

Dystonia may also be a sign of one or more other illnesses or conditions, such as −

  • Parkinson's condition

  • Alzheimer's disease

  • Wilson's illness

  • Harm to the brain from trauma

  • Birth trauma

  • Stroke

  • Brain tumors or specific conditions that certain cancer patients acquire (paraneoplastic syndromes)

  • Either a lack of oxygen or carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Infections like encephalitis or TB

  • Heavy metal toxicity or adverse drug reactions

Dystonia: Symptoms

Several people are impacted by dystonia in various ways. A muscle spasm could −

  • Start with one location, such as your leg, neck, or arm. After age 21, the neck, arm, or face are typically where focal dystonia first manifests itself. It often stays focused or splits into smaller sections.

  • Occur when doing a certain task, like handwriting.

  • Worsen by worry, weariness, or stress.

  • Become more obvious over time.

The following bodily parts may be impacted −

  • Neck (cervical dystonia). Your head may twist and move to one side, pull forward or backward, or both during contractions, which may be painful.

  • Eyelids. Your eyes shut suddenly or during spasms (blepharospasms), which impair your vision. Often painless, spasms might worsen in bright light, while reading, watching TV, when stressed, or while engaging with others. Your eyes may feel gritty, dry, or light-sensitive.

  • Tongue or the jaw (oromandibular dystonia). Drooling, slurred speech, and trouble swallowing or chewing are all possible symptoms. Oromandibular dystonia, which frequently coexists with cervical dystonia or blepharospasm, can be uncomfortable.

  • Vocal cords and the voice box (laryngeal dystonia). Your voice may be strained or whispery.

  • Forearm and hand. Writer's dystonia or musician's dystonia, for example, are specialized varieties of dystonia that only happen when you do a repetitive task like writing or playing a certain musical instrument. In most cases, symptoms don't appear when your arm is at rest.

When to Visit a Doctor?

Early dystonia symptoms are frequently sporadic, minor, and associated with a particular activity. If you have involuntary muscular spasms, see your doctor.

The following problems may occur depending on the kind of dystonia −

  • Physical limitations that interfere with your ability to do certain chores or everyday activities

  • Eyesight issues that have an impact on your eyelids

  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking

  • Pain and exhaustion from your muscles' continual contraction

  • Depression, anxiety, and isolation from society

Dystonia: Risk Factors

Several factors play an important role in the development of dystonia which includes −

  • Family background (genes)

  • Injury to the nervous system or brain

  • Stroke

  • Using certain medications, such as neuroleptics

  • Infections

  • Poisoning from anything like lead

  • Making extremely exact hand motions, as if you were an artist, musician, or engineer

Dystonia: Diagnosis

The diagnosis of dystonia is mainly done based on history and some of the tests may be required for confirmation and to rule out underlying causes

Your doctor may begin the diagnosis of dystonia by reviewing your medical history and doing a physical exam.

Your doctor could advise the following to ascertain whether underlying disorders are the source of your symptoms −

  • Tests on blood or urine. These tests may show symptoms of toxins or other diseases.

  • CT or MRI scans. The results of these imaging tests can reveal any issues with your brain, including tumors, lesions, or signs of a stroke.

  • Electromyography (EMG) (EMG). The electrical activity of the muscles is assessed with this technique.

  • Genetic analysis. Certain types of dystonia are linked to particular genes. Treatment can be influenced by knowing if you carry certain genes.

Dystonia: Treatment

The treatment is based on the severity of the symptoms. Your doctor may advise conservative or surgical treatment.

Conservative Treatment

Botulinum toxin injections into particular muscles may lessen or end your muscular spasms. Typically, injections are repeated every three to four months.

The majority of side effects are minor and transient. Weakness, a dry mouth, or vocal changes are a few examples. Some drugs target neurotransmitters, which are brain chemicals that influence how your muscles move. The choices consist of −

  • Carbidopa-levodopa. Dopamine levels may rise as a result of this treatment. Moreover, this medication may be used as a diagnostic aid for some forms of dystonia.

  • Both benztropine and trihexyphenidyl. Other than dopamine, these two drugs affect other neurotransmitters. Memory loss, impaired vision, tiredness, dry mouth, and constipation are possible side effects.

  • Tetrabenazine as well as deutetrabenazine. These two drugs inhibit dopamine. Sedation, trembling, anxiety, sadness, and sleeplessness are examples of side effects.

  • Baclofen, clonazepam, and diazepam. These drugs decrease neurotransmission, which may assist with some types of dystonia. These might have adverse consequences, such as sleepiness.

Your medical professional could advise −

  • To aid with symptom relief and function improvement, consider either physical therapy or occupational therapy, or both.

  • If dystonia affects your voice, speech therapy

  • Massage or stretching to relieve muscular discomfort

Surgical Treatment

Surgical treatment may be required in severe cases which include −

  • Brain stimulation is deep. A generator is surgically implanted in your chest, and electrodes are placed in a specific area of your brain. Your brain receives electrical pulses from the generator that may aid in controlling the contraction of your muscles. You can modify the generator's settings to cure your particular problem.

  • Surgery for selective denervation. The nerves responsible for regulating muscular spasms are severed during this surgery. When other cervical dystonia therapies have failed, this can be a possibility.

Dystonia: Prevention

There are no drugs available right now to stop dystonia or halt its development. However, many therapeutic approaches help reduce certain dystonia symptoms, so doctors can choose a therapy strategy based on each patient's symptoms.


A neuro-functional condition called dystonia is characterized by changes at several levels and a wide range of components besides the sensorimotor circuit. These disturbances can have a variety of origins, and lesions at various locations throughout linked circuits can produce identical motor impairment. Although the basal ganglia are an important part of the brain, there are problems across the whole motor circuit.

In the end, a thorough understanding of the pathophysiology of dystonia would undoubtedly lead to a more successful, comprehensible, and targeted treatment.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha


Updated on: 21-Apr-2023


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