Dystonia: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help
Dystonia is a neurological disorder characterised by involuntary and sometimes painful movements of the muscles resulting in jerking, twisting or repetitive movement of body. Dystonia results from involuntary and sustained contractions of the muscles. It can involve any part of the body but most commonly affects the muscles of the neck and limbs.
Dystonia: Incidence, age and sex
Dystonia is not a very common disorder among the people. It can afflict an individual at any age, though it is more common in young adults. It may occur with equal frequency in both men and women.
Signs and symptoms of dystonia: Diagnosis
Dystonia is characterised by brief episodes of muscle spasms which usually deteriorate with emotional stress and exhaustion. Foot cramps and pulling of the neck muscles are common problems. Dystonia can be generalised affecting the whole body or localised to the muscles of the neck, upper or lower limbs. Features like tremors of the hands or speech difficulties may also be encountered in some individuals. Sometimes, excessive blinking of the eyes may also occur for short periods. Individuals in whom muscles of arms and hands are involved may show characteristic deterioration in handwriting after a few lines. Generally these dystonic episodes are brief and occur only during periods of stress. However, they later progress to prolonged episodes occurring even during rest.
Causes and prevention of dystonia
The cause of dystonia is not very clear. It results from dysfunction of a part of brain called basal ganglia which is responsible for regulating voluntary and involuntary movements of the body. The basal ganglia may get damaged in conditions like stroke, multiple sclerosis and head injuries. Moreover, dystonia may also be observed as an adverse effect of certain medications.
There are as such no clear-cut complications of dystonia except for the fact that it can result in problematic issues in work life especially for surgeons, artists, labourers and writers.
The treatment of dystonia aims towards relief of problematic symptoms. Medications which help in relaxation of muscles are often prescribed. Sometimes, drugs which regulate neurotransmitters may also be advised to reduce the episodes of dystonia. Botulinum toxin can be injected into affected muscles to relieve the spasms and relax the contracted muscle. Surgical intervention may be considered in resistant cases wherein destruction of thalamus, a part of the brain, may help in managing the condition. Consistent physiotherapy may also help in relaxing the contracted muscles.