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What is Dystonia?

What is Dystonia?

Dystonia is a neurological disorder characterized by over-activity of a specific group of muscles and/or muscle. It is the over-activity of these specific muscles that causes involuntary movements and tremors, sustained muscle contractions, and abnormal postures.

How is Dystonia Misdiagnosed?

Dystonia is misdiagnosed 90% of the time by clinicians. The involuntary movements and spasms caused by dystonia sometimes are attributed to stress, stiff neck, dry eyes, tics, or psychogenic disorders. A significant clue to dystonia lies in the fact that dystonia often increases during activity, stress and anxiety; but diminishes during relaxation and sleep. The disorder is touched upon in medical school but not really emphasized.

How Often Does Dystonia Occur?

It is estimated that 550,000 people have some form of dystonia in North America alone. However, this value does not take into account that dystonia can coincide with other medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Essential Tremor, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, or Wilson’s disease, among others. The actual number of people identified with dystonia may be over a MILLION, but current funding has not adequately included research that determines the actual epidemiology of dystonia.

Who Can “Get” Dystonia?

Anyone can develop signs and symptoms of the disorder. No one is immune to this disorder.

Symptoms of Dystonia

Dystonia doesn’t just come along overnight. It develops gradually. On rare occasions, dystonia may come on suddenly, but such reactions are more likely related to the taking of antipsychotic drugs by the patient. Early symptoms may include some of the following:

  • blinking
  • sensitivity to light
  • eye irritation
  • subtle facial or jaw spasms
  • difficulty chewing
  • changes in pitch of speech
  • mild jerky head movements
  • stiff neck or neck discomfort
  • cramping of hands during writing
  • cramping of legs

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