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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS

Dystonia

What is Dystonia?  

Dystonia is a medical term that describes a range of movement disorders that causes involuntary spasms and contractions.
The movements are often repetitive and take on unusual and awkward postures. They can also be painful.

 Dystonia is thought to be a neurological condition (conditions that are caused by underlying problems with the brain and nervous system). However, brain functions such as intelligence, memory and language are unaffected in most cases.

Types of dystonia

Dystonia can affect only one muscle or a group of muscles. There are five main types of dystonia:

  • Focal dystonia – only a single body part is affected, such as the hand or eyes
  • Segmental dystonia – two or more connected body parts, such as the neck and shoulder are affected
  • Multifocal dystonia – affects two or more parts of the body that aren't connected to each other, such as the left arm and left leg
  • Generalised dystonia – both legs and other parts of the body are affected, usually one arm or both arms
  • Hemidystonia – dystonia that affects half of the entire body

The two most commonly affected areas are the neck muscles (cervical dystonia) and the eyelids (blepharospasm).

Further Information is available on the NHS Choices website.

How can the Neuro-Rehabilitation Unit help?

There's no cure for dystonia, although the symptoms can be managed with treatment.

In some cases of secondary dystonia, such as after a stroke, the symptoms eventually disappear completely. This is called remission, and occurs in around 10% of people with focal dystonia during their lifetime. However, people with other underlying conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, are likely to have symptoms of dystonia that last for the rest of their lives.

Treatment options for dystonia will vary depending on the type of dystonia you have.

We can offer Botulinum toxin injection once the treatable causes are ruled out and no further medication is helping to treat your symptoms.

Dystonia which can be treated in this centre are:

  • Cervical dystonia
  • Blepharospasm
  • Hemifacial spasm
  • Writer’s cramp
  • Myoclonus dystonia