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People with dystonia have involuntary muscle contractions that cause slow and repetitive movements. These movements can:
The most commonly affected body parts include your head, neck, trunk, and limbs. While dystonia can be mild, it can also be severe enough to affect your quality of life.
Dystonia can affect you in different ways. Muscle contractions can:
There are three main categories of dystonia:
The exact cause of dystonia is unknown. However, doctors believe that certain medical conditions, genetics, or brain damage may be linked to this condition.
Certain medical conditions that affect your brain and nerve function are associated with dystonia. These conditions include:
Other factors known or believed to cause uncontrolled muscle movement include:
In many cases, dystonia is an ongoing symptom that may remain stable over time. You should see your doctor if:
It may be helpful to take a few notes about your symptoms,
For example, symptoms may flare up only after strenuous exercise. You should also find out if you have a history of dystonia in your family.
Your doctor will likely take a thorough health history and perform a detailed physical exam. They will focus on your muscle and nerve function. They’ll note your:
Your doctor may ask you to see a neurologist to diagnose the underlying cause of your condition. Your doctor or specialist may perform tests to help make a diagnosis, including:
There is no cure for dystonia. However, certain medications can help manage your symptoms.
Botox injections into targeted muscle groups can help ease your muscle contractions. You must receive the injections every three months. Side effects include fatigue, dry mouth, and changes in your voice.
Medications that affect the neurotransmitter called dopamine may also improve your symptoms. Dopamine controls your brain’s pleasure centers and regulates movement.
Massage, heat treatment, and low-impact exercises may help manage your symptoms.
Research on alternative treatments for dystonia is limited. Some people have found relief by practicing certain alternative therapies, such as:
Severe dystonia can cause a number of complications, such as:
Even though there’s no cure for dystonia, there are treatment options to help you manage your symptoms. Speak with your doctor about your risk of developing complications. You may have to try a few treatments, but there are steps you can take to start managing your dystonia.
Written by: Krista O'Connell
Medically reviewed on: Feb 24, 2016: William A Morrison MD
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