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Diagnosing & Treating Dystonia


A type of movement disorder, dystonia can cause involuntary muscle contractions in a specific muscle group or the entire body. There are three main types of dystonia: 

  • Acquired dystonia is caused by brain damage or degeneration
  • Genetic dystonia is passed along in families.
  • Idiopathic dystonia does not have a known cause.

Dignity Health neurologists are dedicated to the care and treatment of dystonia in the Bay Area. If you’d like to make an appointment, use our search tool and Find a Doctor.

Recognizing Signs of Dystonia

Signs and symptoms of dystonia are often seen during childhood, but can occur in adults as well. Signs of the disorder vary by type and the area affected, but can include: 

  • Cramps
  • Muscle twitching
  • Rapid eye blinking
  • Tremors
  • Trouble speaking 

In some instances, dystonia affects only a specific function, such as using a pencil to write.

If you or a loved one have one or more of these symptoms, get a diagnosis at Dignity Health.

What Causes Dystonia?

Researchers believe idiopathic dystonia may be linked to brain abnormalities or problems with brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), which send information back and forth between nerves and the brain. However, the specific cause remains unknown.

In genetic dystonia, a faulty gene is inherited from one or both parents. Not all people with dystonia pass it on to their children.

Acquired dystonia results from brain damage, for instance from a traumatic brain injury or exposure to certain chemicals or medication.

Brain infections and lack of oxygen to the brain are risk factors for dystonia.

Treatment & Prevention of Dystonia at Dignity Health

Our neurologists provide care to alleviate muscle spasms and offer guidance on how to prevent future injuries to the brain that could cause acquired dystonia.

Your doctor may recommend one or more of these treatments: 

If you’re a parent, you can help prevent dystonia by protecting your child from chemical fumes or accidental poisoning from cleaning products or medications.

Dignity Health hospitals in the Bay Area provide quality care to diagnose and treat dystonia.