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Understanding Dystonia

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder characterised by involuntary muscle contractions, which force certain parts of the body into abnormal, sometimes painful, movements or postures.

Dystonia can affect any part of the body including the arms and legs, trunk, neck, eyelids, face, or vocal cords. It is a complex disorder because of its causes, treatment, progression, and variability of symptoms.

If dystonia causes any type of impairment, it is because muscle contractions interfere with normal function. Features such as cognition, strength, and the senses, including vision and hearing, are normal. While dystonia is not fatal, it is a chronic disorder and prognosis is difficult to predict.

It is the third most common movement disorder after Parkinsonís disease and Tremor, affecting an estimated 3,000 people in Ireland.

Dystonia is not a single disease, but a syndrome: a set of symptoms that cannot be attributed to a single cause. Thus, both genetic and non-genetic events must be accounted for before we finally have a full understanding of the common elements, namely, the twisting, repetitive movements around an axis, such as an arm or the neck. Dystonia may occur in a generalised or focal form. It may result from hereditary condition or as a result of brain injury.

 

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