Dystonia Definition: Symptoms, Type, Causes and How To Treat It

Have you ever experienced muscle contractions so you can’t manage movement? If that happens, chances are you have dystonia. Find out why you can solve it by listening to dystonia definition: Symptoms, Type, Causes, and How To Treat It here.

Having other disorders in the body is not something that should be allowed. Dystonia is one of the disorders that is often experienced by some people, especially women. Dystonia doesn’t just attack certain muscles. However, it can also attack such as tongue, hands, and others.

Symptoms of Dystonia can be caused by many factors. You need to know how to cope as well as specific and medical treatments to deal with these symptoms of Dystonia.


What is Dystonia?

Definition of Dystonia

Dystonia is a movement disorder that occurs when the muscles of the body contract uncontrollably and cause slow repetitive movements, twisting movements, or abnormal postures. This condition sometimes causes pain. Individuals with dystonia often experience tremors or other neurological symptoms.

Usually, this disease is a lifelong problem. However, treatment can help eliminate symptoms. Contractions cause affected parts of the body to become involuntarily rotated, resulting in repetitive movements or abnormal postures. Dystonia can affect one muscle, one muscle group, or an entire body muscle.


Types of Dystonia

Dystonia can be distinguished by two things, namely from the affected part of the body and its pattern syndrome.

Types of Dystonia Based on Affected Body Parts

  • Dystonia focal: occurs in certain parts of the body
  • Multifocal dystonia: occurs in more than one specific unrelated part of the body
  • Segmental dystonia: occurs in adjacent parts of the body
  • Dystonia is common: occurs in most or all of the body
  • Hemidystonia: occurs in the arms and legs on the same side of the body


Types of Dystonia Based on Pattern Syndrome

  • Blepharospasm: dystonia that affects the eyes and begins with the eyes blinking uncontrollably to make the eyelids closed (either one or two eyes).
  • Cranial dystonia: dystonia that affects the muscle areas of the head, face, and neck.
  • Spasmodic dystonia: dystonia that affects the throat muscles.
  • Oromandibular dystonia: dystonia that causes spasms in the lip, jaw, and tongue muscles.
  • Torsion dystonia: dystonia that occurs greatly and affects the entire body with symptoms generally appearing in childhood that will develop more severe with age.
  • Paroxysmal dystonia: dystonia is episodic and occurs only at the time of the appearance of an attack.
  • Writer cramp: dystonia that only occurs when writing by affecting the muscles of the hand or forearm.
  • Cervical dystonia: dystonia affects the neck muscles and causes the head to spin, turn, pull backward and forwards by accident and generally occurs in middle-aged people.
  • Tardive dystonia: dystonia that occurs as a reaction to the drug by giving symptoms is temporary and can be treated through treatment.
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What Causes Dystonia?

The cause of dystonia is still unknown, but disruption to basal ganglia is believed to have a link to this. Basal ganglia itself is a structure in the brain that serves to help control the movement of the body.

This disorder causes changes in nerve cell communication in some areas of the brain. Damage to basal ganglia can be caused by:

  • Brain trauma
  • Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Infection Reactions
  • Poisoning caused by lead or carbon monoxide

In addition, idiopathic or primary dystonia is often inherited from the elderly. Some people as carriers may never get this disease. Symptoms can also vary greatly between family members.

The presence of disorders in the brain’s ability to process neurotransmitters is also thought to be related to the phenomenon of dystonia in a person.


Risk Factors for Dystonia

Several factors can trigger the onset of dystonia in a person. For example, the consequences of:

  • Certain genetic conditions.
  • Certain diseases or medical conditions. For example, Wilson’s disease, Huntington’s, or Parkinson’s.
  • Traumatic brain injury.
  • Stroke.
  • Brain tumors or brain abnormalities caused by cancer.
  • Oxygen deprivation or carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Infections, such as tuberculosis or encephalitis.
  • Reactions to certain treatments.

Dystonia Definition: Symptoms, Type, Causes and How To Treat It


Symptoms of Dystonia

Symptoms of dystonia can range from mild to severe. The disease can affect different parts of the body and often symptoms develop through several stages. Some of the early symptoms include:

  • Weak feet
  • Leg cramps
  • Involuntary neck withdrawal
  • Uncontrollable blinking
  • Difficulty speaking

Also, be aware, stress or fatigue can cause symptoms or cause the condition to worsen. Dystonia sufferers often complain of pain and fatigue due to constant muscle contractions.

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If dystonia occurs in childhood, symptoms usually appear first in the legs or hands. But it can develop rapidly throughout the body. But after adolescence, the rate of development tends to slow down.

While dystonia that appears in early adulthood, usually begins in the upper body. Then comes the slow development of symptoms. This condition usually affects only one or two adjacent parts of the body.


Complications of Dystonia

Some complications can occur due to dystonia, including:

  • Limited movement, making it difficult to carry out daily activities.
  • Difficulty moving jaws, swallowing or speaking.
  • Fatigue and pain due to excessive muscle contractions.
  • Blindness if dystonia attacks the eyelids.
  • Psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, or not associating with the surrounding environment.

Know the various disorders that occur in humans such as Dysthymia in What is (Dysthymia): Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Test


How do I diagnose Dystonia?

To diagnose dystonia, the doctor will start by checking your medical history and performing a physical examination. To determine the condition that causes these symptoms, your doctor will recommend:

  • Blood or urine test. This examination may show signs of poisoning or other medical conditions.
  • MRI or CT scan. This imaging test can identify abnormalities in the brain, such as tumors, lesions, or signs of stroke.
  • Electromyography (EMG). This test measures electrical activity inside the muscles.
  • Genetic tests. DNA sampling is used to find out if a patient has a genetic disorder associated with dystonia, such as Huntington’s disease.


How to treat Dystonia?

Until now there has been no treatment to prevent the occurrence of dystonia or slow the progression of the disease. Although the disease cannot be cured, some of the steps that doctors may recommend for managing muscle contractions are with a combination of medication, therapy, or surgery.



Injections of botulinum toxin into certain muscles can reduce or eliminate muscle contractions, as well as improve abnormal posture. Injections are often repeated every few months. Side effects such as weakness, dry mouth, or voice changes, but only last temporarily.

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Other drugs used to target chemical compounds in the brain (neurotransmitters) that affect muscle movement include:

  • Carbidopa-levodopa. This drug can increase levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
  • Trihexyphenidyl and benztropine. These two drugs work on neurotransmitters other than dopamine. Side effects may include memory loss, blurred vision, nausea, dry skin, and constipation.
  • Tetrabenazine and deutetrabenazine. These two drugs block dopamine. Side effects may include sedation, anxiety, depression, or insomnia.
  • Diazepam, clonazepam, and baclofen. These medications reduce neurotransmitters and help overcome some forms of dystonia. The side effect is drowsiness.



  • Physiotherapy or occupational therapy, to help relieve symptoms and improve body function.
  • Speech therapy, if dystonia affects the vocal cords
  • Stretching and massage, to relieve muscle pain



If dystonia shows severe symptoms, some of the follow-up steps that your doctor may suggest are deep brain stimulation or selective denervation surgery.

  • Deep brain stimulation is your principal kind of operation for dystonia. The operation is performed by inserting a special small tool, to transmit electrical impulses into the brain, which helps control muscle contractions.
  • Selective denervation surgery. In this procedure, the doctor will cut the nerves that control muscle spasms. This surgery can be an option to treat some types of incurable dystonia using therapy.


How do I prevent Dystonia?

Dystonia is a un-preventable disease. However genetic testing or DNA testing may be able to reveal if you have a genetic defect that could lead to this condition. Therefore, consulting with a genetic counselor can help to decide if genetic testing is a good idea for you and your family.


When to see a doctor?

Early signs of dystonia are often mild and are associated with a specific activity. See a doctor immediately if you experience abnormal muscle contractions that occur excessively.


What if Dystonia is left?

If left untreated, dystonia can also trigger the following complications:

  • Physical disabilities that affect performance in certain daily activities or tasks
  • Visual impairment affecting the eyelids
  • Difficulty moving jaws, swallowing, or speaking
  • Pain and Exhaustion, due to Continuous muscle contractions
  • Depression, anxiety, and social isolation.

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