Dystonia is the name of a condition that causes uncontrolled and sometimes painful muscle movements (spasms). It’s usually a lifelong problem, but treatment can help relieve the symptoms.
We spoke to leading consultant geriatrician and general physician, Dr Prashanth Reddy to discuss some of the treatment options available.
What are the causes of dystonia?
Most often, the cause of dystonia is unknown, but there are very few conditions that as a result of antipsychotic medications, can cause tardive dystonia. Some forms of dystonia could be from a previous stroke or a tumour. There are genetic forms of dystonia and have been 20 genes identified so far. The DYT1 gene causes generalised dystonia, DYT5A/DYT 14 causes dull dopa-responsive dystonia, all of which are autosomal dominant.
Can it be cured, or can dystonia's progression be stopped?
Dystonia can be treated based on the symptoms, however, it cannot be cured and its progression cannot be stopped.
How is dystonia treated?
Patients manage the condition with sensory tricks. However, when symptoms are affecting their quality of life, botulinum toxin injections are considered to help manage the symptoms and also deep brain stimulation can be quite effective in more severe cases. Some non-motor symptoms have been identified in dystonia, for example pain and anxiety, and these can be managed separately.
Can a patient’s lifestyle lessen or aggravate the condition?
Physiotherapy is an effective form of management, and often patients find it very useful, however, it does require commitment from the patient to do it every day. The patient’s lifestyle also has a bearing in the sense that some patients do find work and socialising quite embarrassing due to their condition and this often brings on anxiety and social isolation.
Is there ongoing research to further improve treatment?
I am involved with a research project looking at non-motor symptoms in dystonia and how to manage these symptoms, which have a significant bearing on the quality of life of patients who have dystonia.
If you’d like to book an appointment with Dr Prashanth Reddy you can do so via his Top Doctors profile.