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What is dystonia? — Dystonia is the medical term for a group of disorders that affect muscle movement. Dystonia is type of "involuntary contraction" or "spasm" of your muscles. This means your muscles move when you are not trying to move them. In dystonia, the spasms last for a long time. This can cause part of your body to twist and stay in an unusual position. For example, your foot might stay turned in, so it drags when you walk.
There are various types of dystonia that affect specific parts of the body, such as the neck, face, or arms. Dystonia can also affect several different parts of the body at the same time.
Some types of dystonia start in childhood, others start in adulthood. Some types run in families. There are also types of dystonia that happen with other diseases, such as Parkinson disease.
What are the symptoms of dystonia? — Each type of dystonia causes different symptoms (table 1). But, in general, all types cause muscle spasms that last a long time. Some people also have "tremor," which is the medical term for trembling or shaking that a person cannot control.
The symptoms of dystonia affect only the body's movements. People with dystonia usually do not have problems with their ability to think or understand.
Is there a test for dystonia? — No, there is no test. But doctors can usually tell if you have dystonia by learning about your symptoms and doing a neurological exam. In a neurological exam, the doctor checks how your brain, nerves, and muscles are working. Sometimes doctors use other tests to make sure something else is not causing your symptoms.
How is dystonia treated? — There are treatments that can help the symptoms of dystonia. But there is no cure for the problem. Treatment for you will depend on the type of dystonia you have. Treatments can include:
Medicines – There are many medicines that can help with the symptoms of dystonia. These medicines come in pill form. Your doctor or nurse will decide which medicine is best for you or your child.
Botulinum toxin (often called "BoTox") – BoTox injections (shots) help muscles relax. BoTox can be used in the parts of your body where the symptoms are the worst.
Deep brain stimulation (also called "DBS") – DBS might be an option for people with severe symptoms who do not get better with medicines or BoTox. People who get DBS must first have surgery to place wires into a part of the brain that helps control muscle movement. The wires are attached to a device that gets implanted under the skin, usually near the collarbone. It sends electrical signals to the brain to reduce muscle spasms.
What will my life be like? — Most people with dystonia live fairly long lives. But they can have problems doing certain activities. If you or your child has some type of dystonia, ask the doctor about what to expect.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 83332 Version 6.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
© 2020 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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