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Dystonia

Dystonia is a neurological disorder in which muscles contract involuntarily, causing repetitive or twisting movements. These postures and movements may be painful. Dystonic movements are usually patterned and repetitive. These movements can interfere with your performance of routine tasks.

Dystonia affects any region of the body including the face, eyelids, jaw, neck, torso, vocal cords, limbs, hands, and feet. Moreover, dystonia also causes depression and anxiety among the people.

Researchers and doctors have discovered no cure for dystonia. But medications have known to improve symptoms. Sometimes, surgery is used to disable or regulate nerves or certain brain regions in people with severe dystonia.

Consult your doctor for diagnosing and treating Dystonia for your well-being.

Symptoms

Dystonia affects diverse people in multiple ways. It is usually misdiagnosed as stress, a stiff neck, or a psychological disorder.

Dystonia slowly develops with localized symptoms suggesting the presence of the disorder.

The symptoms include:

  • Irritation in the eye, enhanced sensitivity to bright light and increased blinking
  • Subtle facial spasms
  • Slurred speech, drooling, and difficulty chewing or swallowing and changes in speech
  • Fatigue during manual activities such as walking and feeling of cramps in hand during writing.
  • Dystonia worsens with stress, fatigue, or anxiety and becomes more noticeable over time.

Causes

The exact cause of dystonia is unknown. Some forms are dystonia are hereditary.

Dystonia also occurs as a symptom of another disease or condition, including:

  • Parkinson's disease
  • Huntington's disease
  • Wilson's disease
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Birth injury
  • Stroke
  • Brain tumor
  • Oxygen deprivation or carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Infections, such as tuberculosis or encephalitis
  • Reactions to certain medications or heavy metal poisoning

Diagnosis

The Doctor will start with a medical history and physical examination to diagnose dystonia. Other tests are:

  • Blood or urine tests: These tests are administered for revealing any signs of toxins or of other environmental conditions.
  • MRI or CT scan: Any abnormalities in your brain, such as tumours, lesions, or evidence of a stroke can be identified.
  • Electromyography (EMG): This test measures the electrical activity within muscles.
  • Genetic testing: These tests will help in guided treatment as dystonia is associated with certain genes.

Treatment

To treat Dystonia, the three-tiered approach is used.

Botulinum toxin: Botox is used to treat Dystonia because it helps in blocking the communication between the nerve and the muscle and may lessen abnormal movements and postures.

Medications: Medications are used to reduce or eliminate muscle contractions and improve abnormal postures. Injections are typically repeated every three to four months.

Surgery: Surgery is considered when another treatment has not yielded results. The surgery interrupts the pathways responsible for the abnormal movements at various levels of the nervous system. Recently, Deep brain stimulation (DBS) was also tried to treat Dystonia. The electrodes are surgically implanted into a specific part of your brain and connected to a generator implanted in your chest. To control your muscle contractions, the generator transmits electrical pulses to your brain.

Also, Selective denervation surgery can be used. In this procedure, the nerves that control muscle spasms are cut to treat some types of dystonia that haven't been successfully treated using other therapies.

Therapy

The doctor may suggest a number of therapies:

  • Physical therapy or occupational therapy or both may help you to help ease symptoms and improve function
  • Speech therapy if dystonia affects your voice
  • Stretching or massage to ease muscle pain

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

To minimize the effect of Dystonia, you can also consider different remedies:

Sensory tricks to reduce spasms: Touch certain parts of your body that may cause spasms to stop temporarily.

Heat or cold: Apply heat or cold to help ease muscle pain.

Stress management: To manage stress, acquire effective coping skills such as deep breathing, social support, and positive self-talk.

Coping and support

Dystonia can cause difficulty and frustration among the people suffering from it. You may be uncomfortable in social situations and this can cause depression and anxiety. Talk to your family members about it, or tell your therapist or join a support group.

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