Are you worried about the possibility of experiencing dystonia? If so, you likely have many questions about what dystonia disease is, what causes it, and how to cure it. These are all common concerns for those who experience this neurological disorder.
Dystonia is a neurological disorder involving prolonged muscle contractions and abnormal postures. It can cause distress and disability. The condition affects roughly 500,000 people in the United States alone. As such, it can significantly impact the quality of life for those affected.
To help ease any worries or confusion, we’ve put together a list of 10 frequently asked questions about what dystonia disease is. So you can get the helpful insight you need! You can take greater control over your condition and achieve a more balanced life quality through a better knowledge of common symptoms, diagnostic procedures, and treatment options. Let’s consider what you need to know about dystonia!
What is Dystonia Disease?
Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder characterized by involuntary, sustained muscle contractions. It causes abnormal body posturing. It can result in movement disorders, such as twisting and repetitive motions. It can be localized (affecting one area) or generalized (affecting multiple body parts).
Dystonia affects any body part, but mostly:
- Or trunk.
Symptoms range from mild to severe and can vary significantly in intensity over time. But what are the dystonia disease common symptoms? They include:
- Muscle stiffness or spasms;
- Difficulty with coordination;
- And balance issues due to weakened muscles.
It often co-occurs with other conditions such as depression, anxiety, and intellectual disability.
Tremor is frequently, but not always, inherent in dystonia. A tremor is an involuntary, rhythmic muscle contraction. It leads to shaking movements in one or more body parts. Researchers continue to examine the relationship between tremors and dystonia.
Dystonia can cause significant disability and discomfort for those affected. But, people with dystonia can live productive lives with proper diagnosis and treatment.
How Many Forms of Dystonia are There?
There are currently three recognized forms of dystonia:
- Primary dystonia;
- Secondary dystonia;
- Acquired/traumatic dystonia.
Let’s consider in more detail how many forms and subtypes dystonia has:
Primary dystonia. It occurs due to abnormal brain circuitry. It has four subtypes:
- Idiopathic torsion dystonia;
- Heredodegenerative or early-onset dystonia;
- Adult-onset primary focal and segmental dystonias;
- And multifocal forms.
Secondary or symptomatic forms. These secondary forms of dystonia tend to be more focal and may involve one or two muscle groups. They include:
- Neuroleptic agents;
- Metabolic disorders such as Wilson’s disease;
- Infectious diseases such as encephalitis;
- Structural lesions in specific brain regions such as basal ganglia;
- And others that can be due to trauma or toxin exposure.
The acquired/traumatic form. This form can develop due to underlying conditions. It is mainly due to:
- Stroke ;
- Or tumor growth.
Each type of dystonia has its symptoms and underlying cause. It helps physicians make a diagnosis and suggest potential treatments. Thus, timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential for managing its symptoms.
What is Dystonia Caused By?
Dystonia is caused by abnormal basal ganglia functioning. The basal ganglia regulate muscle movement and posture. Its causes can also include infections, head trauma, or hereditary disorders. In some cases, the cause of dystonia cannot be unknown. Let’s consider these factors in more detail:
- Strep throat;
- Ear infections;
- Urinary tract infections;
- And respiratory viruses.
Also, some bacterial infections are those triggers what can cause dystonia. They are Lyme disease and meningitis.
Head trauma includes:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a stroke. These injuries damage the part of the brain responsible for controlling muscle movement. It causes involuntary and unpredictable contractions.
In some cases, dystonia develops days or weeks after head trauma. In other cases, it can take months or even years for the symptoms to appear.
- Mutations in several different genes. Some of these genes involve DYT1, THAP1, TUBB4A, and GCH1.
Besides genetic mutations, some hereditary disorders can lead to dystonia. These are Huntington’s, Wilson’s, fragile X syndrome, and galactosemia.
What Drugs Cause Dystonia?
Drugs that cause dystonia include:
- Serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac);
- Clomipramine (Anafranil);
- Sertraline (Zoloft);
- And paroxetine (Paxil);
- Antipsychotics such as haloperidol;
- Lithium carbonate;
- And the Parkinson’s disease drug levodopa.
Antibiotics like penicillin and tetracyclines are also those drugs what can cause dystonia. These antibiotics can interfere with certain chemicals in the brain that control movement. This, in turn, can lead to dystonia.
Additionally, the following substances can cause dystonia or worsen existing symptoms:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2);
- Carbon monoxide (CO);
- Heavy metals like lead, mercury, and arsenic;
- Industrial solvents containing toluene or xylene;
- Solvents used in glue manufacturing processes, pesticides, and fungicides.
It is vital to be aware of any potential side effects of taking certain drugs what cause dystonia. Common side effects may include:
- Dry mouth;
- Vision changes;
- And rapid heart rate.
Less common side effects may include:
- Restlessness, or trouble sleeping.
In rare cases, some medications can cause serious side effects such as:
- Chest pain;
- Difficulty breathing;
- Swelling of the face or throat;
- And an irregular heartbeat.
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. Also, inform your doctor if you take other medications. It will help to ensure that there are no interactions between them. Always take medications as directed. Discuss any potential side effects or concerns with your doctor.
Is Dystonia Painful?
The answer to dystonia is painful, depending on the type and severity of this disorder. In some cases, there can be no pain. But certain movements or activities can cause discomfort or even pain in others.
Generally speaking, dystonia often involves cramping or spasms that can be uncomfortable. For those who experience more severe symptoms, chronic pain is possible. It is due to tightness or stiffness in the muscles.
Some individuals also experience headaches and other discomforts, which can be quite painful. Fortunately, several treatments available can help manage the symptoms of dystonia. They can also reduce any painful dystonia sensations.
Thus, it is essential to speak with a qualified healthcare provider. They can assess your situation and create a tailored treatment. This will ensure you get the most effective and appropriate help to ease your symptoms. With the proper support, it is possible to reduce any dystonia pain and lead a fulfilling life.
How to Diagnose Dystonia?
A proper diagnosis is essential to determine which treatment plan will work best for you. One of the most common methods of diagnosing dystonia is through a physical exam. Your doctor or neurologist will assess your movements to see any signs of dystonia. If needed, they can also order additional tests such as:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans;
- Blood tests;
- And genetic testing.
Another way how to diagnose dystonia is by assessment of movement accuracy and speed. This includes tasks such as:
- Pressing buttons;
- Drawing circles;
- Tracing shapes on paper with a pencil;
- And performing finger taps.
Your doctor can also ask you to complete certain activities that involve:
- Muscle strength;
- Coordination, and balance.
Following these tests, your doctor can order a dystonia-specific test such as electromyography. Finally, your neurologist will make a diagnosis. They will consider other factors like age of onset and family history.
How to Cure Dystonia?
Despite advancements in treatment options, there is no known cure for dystonia. And while there is no single cure for dystonia, several therapeutic strategies are available. They reduce symptoms and provide relief:
- Physical therapy;
- Botulinum toxin injections;
- Electrical stimulation treatment;
- Deep brain stimulation surgery.
Let’s consider these therapeutic strategies in more detail:
1. Physical Therapy
A physical therapist can help create an individualized exercise program to:
- Improve posture and strength;
- Increase muscle flexibility around the affected area;
- And reduce the risk of future injury.
- And coordination drills tailored to a patient’s needs.
While there is no way on how to cure dystonia, several medications are available:
- Anticholinergics to control muscle spasms or improve movement;
- Botulinum toxin injections to relax contracted muscles and relieve pain;
- Other medications, such as benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants to manage symptoms.
3. Botulinum Toxin Injections
This treatment involves injecting small doses of botulinum toxin into affected muscles. This injection paralyzes muscles and temporarily reduces spasms.
It involves applying electrical currents to the nerves. They interrupt signals that cause involuntary muscle contractions, thus helping reduce spasms.
- Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery
During this procedure, electrodes are implanted into specific brain areas. They regulate nerve activity and reduce symptoms associated with dystonia.
Is Cervical Dystonia Considered a Disability?
Whether or not cervical dystonia is a disability depends on the individual’s symptoms and how they affect their daily life. It can be a disability if a person has significant limits to completing activities such as:
- Using a telephone;
- Climbing stairs;
- And other basic functions.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a set of guidelines. They determine if cervical dystonia medical condition is considered a disability. To qualify as disabled, an individual should demonstrate certain signs and symptoms. These signs significantly interfere with daily activities.
In addition, individuals can also be eligible for disability benefits if their cervical dystonia meets specific criteria. These criteria include:
- Difficulty controlling head movements;
- Severe neck pain;
- Inability to execute everyday activities due to movement disorder;
- Or other impairments such as loss of balance or coordination.
If an individual’s cervical dystonia does not meet these criteria, it can not be a disability.
Are Parkinson’s and Dystonia Related?
Although dystonia and Parkinson’s are distinct neurological disorders, they cause similar movement problems, such as:
- And slow movement.
Dystonia involves involuntary muscle contraction. They can cause repetitive, often patterned muscle spasms or movements. Symptoms of dystonia range from mild to severe and can affect any body part.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder. It is due to a degeneration of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine. It affects a person’s ability to control movement and leads to slow movements and rigidity.
Additionally, certain types of dystonia can be due to Parkinson’s disease. Dystonias related to Parkinson’s are known as secondary dystonias. And there are four main types:
- Drug-induced dystonia;
- Dopa-responsive dystonia;
- Postural torsion dystonia;
- And myoclonus dystonia.
According to estimates, 10 to 20 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease will develop one or more forms of secondary dystonia during their lifetime.
What is Myoclonic Dystonia?
Myoclonic dystonia is a rare movement disorder. It has signs of sudden and brief shock-like jerks or twitches of a muscle or group of muscles. This condition can affect any body part, but mostly these are:
- And trunk.
Myoclonic dystonia can cause frequent myoclonus (jerking). It can interfere with daily activities such as:
- Concentration and memory;
- And writing.
In severe cases, it also causes involuntary movements. They can be painful or disabling. The exact cause of myoclonic dystonia is unknown. But genetic factors play an essential role in its development.
What is the treatment for myoclonic dystonia? Treatment usually consists of:
- And lifestyle modifications.
They help reduce the severity of the symptoms and improve the quality of life. In some cases, it can be physical therapy or surgery. So, you should talk to your doctor if you have concerns about myoclonic dystonia.
Get a Consultation from Lone Star Neurology Doctors
If you or someone you know is experiencing dystonia symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact our Lone Star Neurology medical professionals. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to managing the condition. The right treatment plan helps patients relieve their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Are you experiencing any of the symptoms of dystonia? Have you been diagnosed with dystonia? Have you talked to a healthcare professional about your options? Share your story in the comments below.