Dystonia is commonly referred to as movement disorder and is characterized by involuntary contraction in the muscles that cause abnormal or repetitive movements and are mostly unpredictable and fluctuating. These repetitive movements can be initiated or worsened by the attempted movements and are mostly associated with overflow muscle activation.
It can occur in any region of the body and in any combination. Also, it may emerge at any age and once it starts, it becomes difficult to remit. Some of them remain static but some are very progressive.
It can occur in isolation or also in combination with other medical or clinical problems.
Dystonia Symptoms –
Dystonia can affect different people in different ways. The muscle contraction can begin in a single area like a leg or arm. It may occur during a specific action or any physical activity.
Dystonia may get worse over time and also because of stress, fatigue, or anxiety.
These are the following areas that can be affected by the dystonia –
- Neck or cervical dystonia – This is the pain in the neck area due to the contraction or movements.
- Eyelids – It is the rapid blinking of an eye or involuntary spasms that makes it difficult to see. It might increase when you are in light or stress or interacting with people. Also, you might feel a lot of dryness in the eye.
- Jaw – It is the difficulty in chewing or swallowing or while speaking.
- Voicebox – You might feel a tight and whispering sound.
- Hand and forearm – It is the pain in the hand or forearm due to excessive physical activity.
See your doctor promptly if you have too much pain or if the symptoms worsen.
Who is at risk?
Though anyone can develop dystonia at any age, certain groups are at higher risk, including:
- Women are at a higher risk of dystonia as compared to men.
- It can be because of genetic factors. So, if someone in the family or close ones have dystonia, then the person is at a higher risk.
Dystonia Causes –
Though the exact cause is not known, an altered nerve cell in several regions of the brain can cause dystonia. Also, a few inherited factors can be the reason. Other contributing factors to the dystonia causes include the following –
- Birth injury
- Parkinson’s disease
- Wilson’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Trauma or injury in the brain
- Brain tumor
- Disorders that develop in some people due to cancer
- An infection like TB or encephalitis
- Deprivation of oxygen
- Reaction due to certain medicines
- Heavy metal poisoning
Dystonia Diagnosis –
For the diagnosis, the dystonia doctor needs to start with the inquiry and understanding about the medical history or the physical examination.
The doctor may recommend the following dystonia test that can help in determining the underlying conditions that are causing the symptoms –
- A blood test or urine test – To find if there are any signs of toxins or other conditions.
- MRI or CT scan – This test can help in identifying the abnormalities in the brain, for eg, brain tumor, stroke, or anything else.
- Genetic testing – To find if the symptoms are somewhat associated with the genes.
- EMG – This test is done to measure the electrical activity within the muscles.
Dystonia Treatment –
This condition can not be fully cured. In order tor minimize the effects treatment is prescibed, which could be a combination of medications, therapy, or surgery.
Medicines for dystonia helps in reducing or eliminating muscle contractions and improving the abnormalities in the picture. The medications or injections are given to the patient every 3 to 4 months. The side effects of the medicine are generally from mild to temporary and can include weakness, voice change, or dry mouth.
The therapy may include physical therapy, speech therapy, or stretching or massaging the muscle that has the pain.
Surgery can also be done in cases where symptoms are severe.
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Dystonia Prevention –
Currently there are no medicines to prevent Dystonia or ease its progerssion. Some of the treatment options can reduce the severity of the symptoms. Doctor may recommend certain changes in the lifestyle or various home remedies. Yoga, meditation, or deep breathing can help in minimizing the effects of this disease. Also, stress management, social support, or positive self-talk can help.