Dystonia can be defined as motion or movement type disorder in which a person’s muscles contract involuntarily. This sudden contraction causes the body to twist resulting in repetitive movements or motions. This disorder can either focus on one muscle or one part (i.e. focal dystonia), a group of muscles or some selective parts adjacent to each other (i.e. segmental dystonia), affect more than one unrelated body part (i.e. multifocal dystonia), affect the arm and the leg of the same side (i.e. hemidystonia) or sometimes affect even the entire body (i.e. general dystonia). Also Read: Tennis Elbow: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Dystonia can be characterised by the following types:
Cervical Dystonia: Also known as torticollis, this type of dystonia that happens in the neck where contractions cause the neck to turn to one side or pull forward or backward causing pain.
Spasmodic Dystonia: In this type, the involuntary contraction happens in the voice box or vocal cords causing a person great difficulty to speak.
Musician’s Dystonia: Sometimes, dystonia can happen owing to a repetitive activity of the hands or forearms when someone is writing (i.e. writer’s dystonia) or playing a musical instrument (i.e. musician’s dystonia). Also Read: Writer's Cramp: A Rare And Sudden Cramp On Your Muscles
Blepharospasms: This type of dystonia happens in the eyes where involuntary spasms force the eyes to close rapidly inducing pain.
Oromandibular dystonia: Characterised by drooling, difficulty in chewing or swallowing, and problem in talking, this type of dystonia usually affects the jaw and tongue. It can be quite painful and often happen in combination with cervical dystonia or some other type.
Torsion Dystonia: Although a rare type of dystonia, this is generally hereditary in nature and is caused by a mutation in the DYT1 gene. The symptoms usually develop in childhood and become worse with time.
Tardive Dystonia: Although its temporary and can be remedied by proper medication, this type of dystonia usually occurs due to a side effect of a medication.
Cranial Dystonia: The cranial dystonia usually affects the neck, face and head muscles.
Paroxysmal Dystonia: This type is usually episodic in nature and the characteristic symptoms come up only during the spasmodic attack.
Although the exact cause of dystonia is yet unknown, some researches suggest that this diseased condition might occur due to an altered nerve cell communication in the basal ganglia region of the brain; the region that is responsible for the initiation or regulation of muscle contraction. Sometimes dystonia can be inherited due to hereditary factors and sometimes it occurs as an underlying symptom of another health anomaly. This includes:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Injury at the time of birth
- Brain tumor
- Oxygen deprivation
- Poisoning due to carbon monoxide
- Infections, such as tuberculosis or encephalitis
- Drug reaction
- Metal poisoning
- Huntington's disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Wilson's disease
Dystonia is observed differently in different people and the symptoms usually range from mild to severe. However, the common signs and symptoms include:
- Dragging of leg
- Sudden involuntary pulling of the neck
- Cramping of the foot
- Blinking uncontrollably
- Difficulty while speaking
If the condition is left untreated, over time it can cause,
- Extreme difficulty to speak, eat or swallow
- Difficulty with vision
- Physical disabilities
- Depression and social withdrawal syndrome
- Pain and general debility
Diagnosis And Treatment
Once you observe any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, consult a doctor right away to start the treatment at the earliest. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup, acknowledges the patient’s past medical history and may perform the following diagnostics, which includes:
- Blood Test or Urine Test
- Imaging techniques like MRI scan or CT-scan
- Genetic Testing
Although, there is no absolute cure for dystonia, proper medications can improve the symptoms. These include neurotransmitters that usually reduce or eliminate involuntary muscle contractions and improve abnormal postures. The doctor may also suggest for some physical therapy like speech therapy, massage etc to provide relief from the pain and improve muscular functions. In case, the symptoms are severe, the doctor may also perform a Deep Vein Stimulation Surgery or a Selective Denervation Surgery as a last resort to ease the pain and improve bodily functions and postures.