Dystonia is a movement disorder that causes muscles to contract involuntarily. The three main types of dystonia are acquired, genetic, and idiopathic (of no known cause). Dystonia may affect the entire body (generalized) or only a specific muscle group (focal).
Find a trusted Doctor to provide the quality care you need for dystonia in the Sacramento region at Dignity Health Neurological Institute of Northern California. Our fellowship-trained movement disorder specialist can work with you to diagnose and manage your symptoms. Reach out to our professionals today.
Causes of Dystonia
In most cases, the cause of dystonia is unknown. Researchers believe dystonia may be caused by problems in the parts of the brain responsible for controlling muscle movement. Dystonia is not the result of nerve cells deteriorating (a neurodegenerative condition). Instead, the nerve cells behave abnormally. Dystonia also may be caused by problems with brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that relay information from the nerves to the brain, and vice versa.
Genetic dystonia is caused by a faulty gene that has been inherited from one or both parents. However, not all parents with dystonia pass the condition to each child.
Acquired dystonia is caused by injury to the brain. This injury might be traumatic (such as a head injury) or may occur through exposure to chemicals or medications. Infections and any condition that causes a lack of oxygen to the brain also can cause dystonia. Acquired dystonia is sometimes called secondary dystonia.
Dystonia always affects muscle movement. The initial signs and symptoms of dystonia may occur in childhood, although adults can get dystonia, too. The symptoms of dystonia vary, depending on the type and the muscle group affected.
In general, any type of dystonia may cause muscle twitching, cramps, or tremors. Dystonia also can cause rapid eye blinking and trouble speaking. Occasionally, dystonia only affects the ability to perform one specific function. For example, you may lose the ability to write with a pencil but retain the ability to eat using the affected hand.
Treating & Preventing Dystonia in Northern California
At Dignity Health, our advanced dystonia treatment and prevention strategies focus on relieving the involuntary muscle spasms caused by the disorder and avoiding any type of brain injury that can cause acquired dystonia.
Offered by skilled neurosurgeons and neuropsychologists, our typical treatments for dystonia include:
- Medications, especially botulinum toxin, to reduce muscle spasm
- Drugs that influence the activity of neurotransmitters
- Surgery, in some cases
Deep brain stimulation has proven effective for certain types of dystonias. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy also may be a part of your dystonia treatment plan.
Idiopathic cases of dystonia cannot be prevented. However, taking care to protect the brain from injury due to trauma or environmental exposures, such as chemical fumes, or accidental swallowing of medications or cleaning products, reduces the risk of acquiring a dystonia. Dignity Health Neurological Institute of Northern California provides care with humankindness for patients with dystonia in Sacramento, CA and the surrounding areas.