Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder characterized by abnormal muscle movements and/or postures. Muscle contractions can range from mild to severe, be painful and interfere with everyday activities.
Dystonia affects an estimated 250,000 Americans, making it the third most common movement disorder, after essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease.
Dystonia can be a challenging condition to diagnose and treat. At UCI Health, our team of movement disorders specialists are fellowship-trained with extensive expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of dystonia and other movement disorders.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call us at 714-456-7720.
Dystonia symptoms vary depending on the form of the disorder. They may include:
- Excessive blinking
- Involuntary pulling sensation of neck muscles
- Twisting limb movements
- Jerking motions
- Stooped or changed posture
- Difficulty speaking
Dystonia can emerge in children or in adults. Childhood-onset dystonia is more likely to be an inherited condition and usually begins in a limb.
Adult-onset dystonia most often affects the head and neck muscles. It may be centered in one area (known as focal dystonia) but can spread to adjacent muscles (called segmental dystonia). The abnormal movements may even become generalized throughout the body (called generalized dystonia).
Dystonia may also result from damage to the brain and spinal cord, such as traumatic head injuries, stroke, brain tumors and even exposure to environmental toxins. Known as secondary dystonia, it also may be a symptom of other neurologic conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease.
At UCI Health, our movement disorder specialists work with you to identify the underlying cause of your dystonia, if possible, and determine its extent. We conduct thorough evaluations, which may include blood tests, brain imaging and possible genetic testing.
There is no cure for dystonia but treatments are available to help relieve symptoms of the disorder. This often involves medications and botulinum toxin injections into specific muscles to help reduce or eliminate abnormal movements.
In some cases, surgical intervention may be considered, using deep brain stimulation (DBS). This surgery involves implanting a device that can deliver electrical impulses to parts of the brain causing the dystonia symptoms.
Physical, occupational and speech therapy also may help ease symptoms and improve function.
in addition, as Orange County's only academic health system, we offer our patients have access to innovative clinical trials and research studies seeking ways to improve symptoms and the care of patients with dystonia. Learn more about our clinical trials ›
We also belong to several national and international research consortiums on movement disorders, including the Dystonia Study Group.