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Dystonia in Children

Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju

Imagine that your body tenses and contracts uncontrollably every time you make a slight movement. Hard to imagine? But that’s how childhood dystonia lives with a neurological disorder in which muscles contract involuntarily. 

Although the cause of dystonia is mainly unknown, it is thought that 1 in 1,000 people suffer from it. And if you think about it, dystonia in babies may have an even harder time living with the condition. Worse, it often occurs in infants as young as two months old and can develop into childhood or adolescence.

For many children with dystonia, this means a life of pain, frustration, and isolation. However, some treatments can alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. If you or someone you understand has a child with dystonia, read on for more information about pediatric dystonia treatment.

 

What is Pediatric Dystonia

Pediatric dystonia is a condition that affects movement and muscle control. Dystonic movements are repetitive or prolonged muscle contractions that cause abnormal postures. Muscles may twist or turn in awkward positions. 

Childhood dystonia can affect any part of the body, but it most commonly affects the neck, face, and back. Various factors, including genetic predisposition, birth trauma, exposure to toxins, or infection, can cause it.

There are several types of dystonia, including primary generalized dystonia (PGD), focal dystonia, and task-specific dystonia.

 

  • Primary Generalized Dystonia (PGD)

It is the most common type of dystonia in babies. It is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that simultaneously cause abnormal postures and movements in several parts of the body. 

  • Focal Dystonias

On the other hand, focal dystonias are more localized and occur in only one area of the body, such as the neck or arm. 

  • Task-specific Dystonias 

These are lesions of muscles used to perform specific tasks, such as writing or drawing.

 

Early Signs and Symptoms of Dystonia in Children

Early-stage dystonia is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that force the body into sometimes painful positions or postures. Signs and symptoms of dystonia in babies can vary widely and change over time. 

In some cases, early symptoms of dystonia may be so mild that they remain almost invisible. In other cases, the symptoms may be severe and disabling. The most common early signs and symptoms of dystonia include:

early signs and symptoms of dystonia in children

  • Involuntary muscle contractions. 

Characterized by unusual and sometimes painful twisting or stretching of affected body parts.

  • Abnormal posture. 

Affected muscles may cause the body to adopt unusual postures that may look uncomfortable or strange.

  • Difficulty speaking and swallowing. 

Muscle contractions can make speaking difficult or eating food in childhood dystonia.

  • Tremors. 

Involuntary muscle contractions may cause the affected muscles to tremble or tremor.

  • Muscle weakness and fatigue. 

The contractions may cause muscle weakness or fatigue.

  • Gait abnormalities. 

Abnormal muscle movements can affect your child’s gait, making it difficult for them to walk or move around.

  • Difficulty writing or performing other tasks. 

Involuntary muscle contractions may make it difficult for your child to perform specific tasks, such as writing.

 

If your child has any of these signs or symptoms, it is vital to see a doctor as soon as possible for further evaluation and dystonia therapy. Early diagnosis and dystonia therapy can help minimize the effects of this condition and improve quality of life.

 

Causes of Pediatric Dystonia

The exact cause of pediatric dystonia is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors: 

 

  • Genetic factors

Certain genetic mutations may increase the risk of developing infantile dystonia. A family history of dystonia or other neurological conditions may also increase the risk. 

  • Environmental factors

Exposure to toxins, medications, food allergies, infections, head trauma, or birth trauma can all be linked to dystonia in babies

Some children may be born with a genetic predisposition to the condition, while others may develop dystonia due to head trauma or exposure to certain toxins. In some cases, dystonia may be caused by a viral infection or an autoimmune reaction. 

 

Although doctors cannot prove 100 percent where dystonia comes from, researchers continue to study potential causes to develop more effective pediatric dystonia treatment.

 

Diagnosis of Dystonia

Diagnosis can be difficult because the symptoms of dystonia in babies vary greatly depending on the type and severity of the condition. 

The diagnosis of dystonia in babies is based on clinical signs and symptoms. Before diagnosing, the doctor usually observes abnormal postures, movements, muscle contractions, and tremors. 

The doctor may also order blood tests. And the doctor may also prescribe imaging, such as CT and MRI scans, to look for physical abnormalities that may be causing the dystonic movements.

In some cases, doctors may order genetic testing to identify possible genetic mutations associated with an increased risk of childhood dystonia.

Only after all the appropriate diagnostic procedures have been performed can the doctor prescribe dystonia therapy.

 

Pediatric Dystonia Treatment

Dystonia therapy depends on the type and severity of the condition. It is best to start treatment when the symptoms of dystonia are early. The goal is to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. 

Treatments such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy can help relieve muscle stiffness, spasms, and other symptoms associated with dystonia. There are also medications to calm muscle tremors and spasms or reduce inflammation in the affected areas. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to correct abnormal posture caused by dystonia.

pediatrician

Home dystonia therapy, stretching exercises, massage, and other relaxation techniques, can help reduce muscle pain, stiffness, and spasms. Counseling can also help children with dystonia learn to manage their condition, cope with lifestyle changes, and maintain a positive attitude.

By seeking medical help for early pediatric dystonia symptoms, parents can ensure that their child receives the best possible care and treatment to minimize pain and maximize the quality of life. With the right combination of therapy and support from family members, children with dystonia can lead prosperous lives full of possibilities.

 

This article is written as a general informational guide only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or any medical care you may receive from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professionals.

 

Bottom Line 

If you want professional help, make an appointment with our qualified professionals at Lone Star Neurology. We will provide you with quality care to ensure your child gets the best possible treatment for their dystonia. We are here to help and support you throughout your journey. 

The experienced pediatric neurologists at Lone Star Neurology provide comprehensive management and advanced treatments for dystonia in children, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, medications, and surgical treatments when necessary. Contact us today to learn more about dystonia and how we can help your child get the care they need! 

 

FAQs 

  • Which doctor treats dystonia in children?

A pediatric neurologist is the most qualified doctor to diagnose and treat dystonia in children.

  • Can a child grow out of dystonia?

No, dystonia is chronic and can affect a person throughout their lifetime. The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

  • Is dystonia a severe condition?

Yes, dystonia can affect a child’s quality of life and cause serious medical complications if left untreated. It is essential to seek help from qualified professionals to ensure your child gets the best possible care.

  • How do I know if my baby has dystonia?

Common signs indicating a baby has dystonia include abnormal posture, stiffness, or jerking movements of the arms or legs. It is essential to contact your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms in your child.

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Lone Star Neurology
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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been prepared.read more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well together.read more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your business.read more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any cookies.read more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going there.read more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my treatment.read more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to finish.read more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 stars.read more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his staff.read more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best treatment.read more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my doctor.read more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding solutions.read more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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