Dystonіa can affect all muscles that work depending on the human will. A patient with this disease of the nervous system develops a problem related to the control of muscle tone by the brain. Dystonia is a neurological disease. Any type of it is caused by disorders related to the extrapyramidal system. Dystonіa is a type of movement disorder characterized by involuntary contractions, independent of the patient’s will in the form of bending and twisting various muscle parts of the body. Some patients also suffer from depression. Muscular dystonіa can take many forms. The most commonly diagnosed is focal dystonіa, located in one area of the body, which accounts for nearly 50% of all cases of the disease. Dystonіa is observed twice as often in women. 

We still do not have specific tests or diagnostic tests to make an easy diagnosis of dystonіa. There are practical difficulties in diagnosing this, and many patients with dystonіc disorders are often underdiagnosed. Therefore, it is advisable to consult experienced neurologists specializing in the treatment of extrapyramidal diseases and movement disorders. The causes of dystonіa are not yet fully discovered, but the disorder is amenable to treatment and comprehensive rehabilitation. Dystonіa does not interfere with other normal brain functions. For example, people with dystonіa have regular intellect, personality, memory, emotions, vision, hearing, and sexual function. Read on to know more about what are dystonia symptoms and how to find them.


How is dystonia characterized?

Dystonіa is a symptom of a nervous system disease, the essence of which is characteristic movement disorders in the form of a repeating pattern of involuntary, which means muscle contractions in a given area of ​​the body that is not dependent on the patient’s will, which leads to its incorrect and unnatural positioning. As the disease progresses, muscular dystonіa may affect new parts of the body not previously affected by the symptom. The image of the disorder is the simultaneous contractions and relaxation of muscles that antagonize each other – flexors and extensors. The nature of dystonіa can be:

  • short-lived, resembling tremors or long-lasting, twisting movements

manifested in any deliberate movement or during repetitive specific activities, such as writing, or manifested in the muscles at rest;

  • focal, affecting one area of ​​the body or occupying extensive muscle groups (the so-called generalized dystonіa);
  • paradoxical, meaning a reduction in involuntary movements under the influence of any movements, e.g. hand dystonіa resolves with manual work and lower limb dystonіa can be improved by walking;
  • myoclonic (called myoclonic dystonіa), that is, fast, jerky movements of the distal parts of the limbs, such as hand dystonіa;
  • tonic (also called tonic dystonіa), meaning slow, unhurried involuntary muscle contractions.

There are several different forms divided according to the causes of dystonia, the age at onset, and the location of the symptoms.

Depending on the cause, dystonіa is split into:

  • primary dystonіa – includes familial dystonia of known cause as well as sporadic forms of unknown cause;
  • dystonіa-plus syndrome – this is a group of diseases where dystonia is the dominant symptom and, in addition, there are other symptoms, e.g. parkinsonism or myoclonus;
  • secondary dystonіa – is caused by an injury or stroke, medication side effects, or occurs in the course of other central nervous system diseases;
  • dystonіa in neurodegenerative diseases – e.g. in diseases of Wilson, Huntington, Parkinson, or mitochondrial disease.

Who gets dystonіa?

Who gets dystonіa

General dystonia occurs in both men and women of all ages. If the disease begins in childhood, it usually becomes worse and causes disability. If the onset is in adulthood, the disease symptoms are most often limited to certain parts of the body, and it does not tend to be generalized.

The diagnosis of dystonіa can be difficult, leaving many patients untreated and their symptoms unrecognized. Recent epidemiological studies show that there are approximately 500,000 people in Europe with various forms of dystonіa, many of whom are unaware that they have it.

Types of muscular dystonіa

Dystonіa is usually classified by location, the extent of muscle group involvement, and symptom location, including:

  1. Focal dystonіa that affects one area of ​​the body, for example:
  • cervical dystonіa associated with twisting movements of the neck or persistent tilt of the head accompanied by a shoulder lift on the contraction side;
  • facial dystonіa, such as the eyelids, with frequent blinking or tightening of the eyelids, or involving the muscles of the mouth and jaw oromandibular dystonіa, that is, involuntary opening and closing of the mouth;
  • laryngeal dystonіa affecting the muscles of the larynx and vocal cords, causing difficulties in speaking and voice emission;
  • hand dystonіa – writer’s cramp in the forearm and hand;
  1. Segmental dystonia involving adjacent areas of the body, for instance, the muscles of the face, larynx, and neck comprising Meige’s syndrome;
  2. Multifocal dystonіa involving areas of the body that are distant from each other.

Muscular dystonіa can also occur in other or special forms, including psychogenic dystonіa, accompanied by other somatic and psychological symptoms:

  • neuro-vegetative dystonіa, including so-called cardiac neurosis manifested by the overlap of symptoms such as stabbing pain in the chest, palpitations, dizziness, feeling anxious, etc.;
  • depressive dystonіa;
  • neurovascular dystonіa.

Inheritance and diagnosis of dystonіa

Dystonіa that begins in childhood tends to have a genetic background linked to damage to one or more genes. Also, segmental or generalized dystonіa is often hereditary and is transmitted predominantly. If one of the parents has this type of dystonіa, there is a high probability of transmission to the child. However, it should be strongly emphasized that not everyone who inherits the abnormal gene must get sick. It is associated with the phenomenon of so-called incomplete gene penetration.

Adult dystonіa can also be hereditary, which is usually difficult to diagnose, especially if other family members have mild dystonia or have not been screened for it, or the diagnosis is incorrect.

Patients should see a doctor if they see any symptoms that may indicate the onset of dystonia. The doctor can make a diagnosis after conducting a thorough physical examination and taking a history of symptoms and their severity and duration, medications taken, and the presence of dystonіa in family members.

A tеst that may provе hеlpful during thе diagnostic procеss is еlеctromyography (EMG) – it еxaminеs thе еlеctrical activity of pеriphеral musclеs and nеrvеs. If thеrе is a family history of dystonіa, gеnеtic tеsting is also nееdеd. Information on this can bе obtainеd from nеurological clinics. In all casеs of dystonіa, nеuroimaging, computеd tomography, or magnеtic rеsonancе imaging of thе hеad should bе pеrformеd to diagnosе/rulе out sеcondary dystonіa.

sеcondary dystonіa

Thе disеasе consists of involuntary body movеmеnts causеd by thе tightеning of thе musclеs. Thе causе is thе nervous system disorders at its bеginning, that is, in thе brain. Thе еxtrapyramidal systеm is thе part of thе brain that is rеsponsiblе for maintaining propеr body posture. It is damagеd during thе disеasе.

  • What is dystonia?

    Dystonіa can affect all muscles that work depending on the human will. A patient with this disease of the nervous system develops a problem related to the control of muscle tone by the brain. Dystonia is a neurological disease. Any type of it is caused by disorders related to the extrapyramidal system. Dystonіa is a type of movement disorder characterized by involuntary contractions, independent of the patient’s will in the form of bending and twisting various muscle parts of the body. Some patients also suffer from depression. Muscular dystonіa can take many forms. The most commonly diagnosed is focal dystonіa, located in one area of the body, which accounts for nearly 50% of all cases of the disease. Dystonіa is observed twice as often in women.
  • How is dystonіa characterized?

    Dystonіa is a symptom of a nervous system disease, the essence of which is characteristic movement disorders in the form of a repeating pattern of involuntary, which means muscle contractions in a given area of ​​the body that is not dependent on the patient’s will, which leads to its incorrect and unnatural positioning. As the disease progresses, muscular dystonіa may affect new parts of the body not previously affected by the symptom. The image of the disorder is the simultaneous contractions and relaxation of muscles that antagonize each other – flexors and extensors.