Dystonia is the term that is used to refer to a number of movement disorders that may have varying origins. The common symptom of these conditions is the presence of spasms and contractions in the muscles.
A number of different muscle groups may be involved depending upon the exact nature of the condition and the contractions themselves may be either continuous or sporadic.
Dystonia is believed to be neurological in origin, thus involving the brain and the nervous system, even though all other parameters like intelligence, reflexes, memory, and speech remain unaffected in most cases.
Different types of Dystonia include:
- Focal Dystonia: A single region of the body is affected, for example the eyes, a leg, the neck or an arm.
- Segmental Dystonia: Two separate but connected regions of the body are affected, like the tongue and jaw.
- Multifocal Dystonia: Two regions of the body which have no connection with each other are affected.
- Generalized Dystonia: The trunk of the body along with two other parts are affected.
- Hemidystonia: One entire half of the body is affected.
The most commonly affected part of the body is the neck, followed closely by the eyelid. Development of Dystonia in these muscles will happen many years after the person has been born and will usually remain limited to that region, not affecting anything else.
Causes Of Dystonia
Most cases of Dystonia do not have an identifiable cause, although the part of the brain responsible for motor control is said to be affected. Dystonia may also develop as a symptom of another underlying condition, such as Parkinson’s, brain stroke, injury or infection.
The diagnosis is made on the basis of clinical examination and medical history. It is likely that the doctor will order investigations including brain scans, blood tests, urine tests or even genetic testing.
There is no permanent cure for this condition although it can be managed quite effectively. Treatment options include the following:
- Botulinum Toxin: Also known as "botox" in popular nomenclature, this is injected into the muscle affected to weaken them. Botox has a paralyzing effect on the muscles it is injected into and thus can stop the contractions and spasms from occurring.
- Anticholinergic medication and muscle relaxants will also probably be prescribed to the affected individual.
- Exercise to improve the neural connections and control of the brain with the affected muscles. It also helps improve the tone and posture.
- Surgery: This is the last alternative in which the neural connections of the affected muscle are severed from the brain to provide relief from the spasms. This mode of treatment may be considered earlier if the muscle group being affected is life threatening in nature.
- There is also the option of having an electric device similar to a pacemaker implanted into the brain in order to reduce the amount of spasms taking place.
The exact treatment modality will depend on upon various factors including the severity of the condition, the medical team's opinions and experience, and the patient’s wishes.
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