Dystonia disorder refers to a neurological condition which results in an inability to control certain muscles. Symptoms vary from mild to severe and may interfere in the performance of daily tasks. Symptoms of dystonia disorder can be improved through medications although the condition may also cause lifelong complications.

What Is Dystonia Disorder?

Dystonia causes involuntary contraction of the muscles in which the affected body parts move or twist uncontrollably. Performing movements with dystonia disorder may be painful. Dystonia is categorized into several divisions according based upon the effected regions.

The types of dystonia based upon location are:

  • Generalized dystonia which affects most or all parts of the body
  • Focal dystonia which is localized to a particular part of the body
  • Multi-focal dystonia refers to having two or more unrelated body parts with dystonia
  • Segmental dystonia affects adjacent parts of the body
  • Hemidystonia is the dystonia of the leg and arm of the same side of the body

Dystonia Disorder Symptoms

The most common symptoms tend to include the following:

  • Distorted postures or repetitive movements caused by involuntary muscle contractions
  • Difficulty using hands or maintaining grip
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Heightened contractions during times of stress

Cervical Dystonia

Cervical dystonia is also called torticollis as it affects the muscles in the neck. The muscles in the neck control the movement of the head. Individuals with this disorder are only able to move their heads on one side and have difficulty moving it backwards or forwards. It can affect a person at any age although it is often associated with birth injuries.


Blepharospasm is the second most common type of focal dystonia. In this type of dystonia, there is an uncontrollable contraction of the muscles that cause the eye to blink. This can lead to increased blinking in both the eyes. This type of dystonia disorder can also lead to spasms in eye which may result in functional blindness even though the eye itself is healthy.

Cranio-facial Dystonia

This type of focal dystonia occurs when the muscles of the head, face and neck are affected. When muscles of the jaw, lip and tongue are affected, it can cause problems in swallowing and speech and there can be difficulty in opening and closing jaw. It may also affect a person’s facial expression.

Task-specific Dystonia

Task-specific dystonia is a focal dystonia and occurs when an activity is repeated again and again. One example of this is writer’s cramp in which the muscles of the hand and forearm are affected when a person starts to write. Physical therapy can be effective in treating this type of dystonia.

Dystonia Disorder Causes

There are certain factors that may be involved in dystonia disorder. One of them may include altered or damaged nerve cell communication pathways. These parts of the brain are involved in muscle contraction. Dystonia disorder may be sometimes inherited.

Dystonia can be caused by other conditions such as:

  • Stroke
  • Birth injury
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Brain tumor
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Certain medications reaction
  • Oxygen deprivation

Dystonia Disorder Treatment

Typically, there is no specific cure for dystonia. However, a physician can recommend some treatment plans that can be used to manage this disorder. Usually doctors prescribe medications that increase brain dopamine. They may also prescribe injections such as botulinum toxin that positively impact abnormal postures. They may ask patients to attend therapy sessions such as physical therapy or speech therapy which can help reduce muscle contraction. Doctors may also ask patients to go through deep brain stimulation or surgery.

Dystonia Disorder Legal Considerations

Dystonia disorder has many potential causes. It is possible that is genetic but it can also be caused by negligence or medical malpractice. If you or your child has developed dystonia as a result of other procedures or complications while at the hospital, it is important to speak with a licensed medical malpractice attorney or birth injury lawyer. He or she will advise you on the proper steps to take in order to seek justice.


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“Dystonia.” Treatments and Drugs. The Mayo Clinic. Web. 5 Feb. 2015. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dystonia/basics/treatment/con-20033527>.

“What Is Dystonia.” Neurology and Neurosurgery. Johns Hopkins University. Web. 5 Feb. 2015. <http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/movement_disorders/conditions/dystonia.html>.