Dystonia: causes, symptoms and treatment

Written by: Dr Prashanth Reddy
Published:
Edited by: Robert Smith

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.

By Dr Prashanth Reddy
Geriatrics

Dr Prashanth Reddy is a highly acclaimed consultant in geriatric medicine and general medicine, with a particular interest in neurogeriatrics, working privately at both London Bridge Hospital and the Guthrie Clinic at King's College Hospital, a major teaching hospital in London. He specialises in treating elderly patients with complex medical conditions such as Parkinson's disease, restless leg syndrome, dystonia, dementia, stroke and comprehensive geriatric assessments. He has vast experience (10 years) with advanced therapies for Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Reddy graduated from Bangalore Medical School in 2000 and moved to the UK for specialist training. He obtained his MRCP in 2005 and pursued a research MD from King's College London and the Institute of Psychiatry. He published his first-ever comparative study on advanced therapies in Parkinson's.

He is currently the lead consultant for the acute health and ageing unit at King’s College Hospital and works at the International Parkinson's Centre of Excellence which focuses on high quality clinical and translational work addressing non-motor aspects of Parkinson's disease. He is also the neuro-gerontology liaison between the neurology and gerontology services at King's. He has integrated the care provided for patients with Parkinson's, dementia and stroke under one roof in a novel neuro-geriatric clinic, the first of its kind in the UK.

Dr Reddy teaches at King's College London and has published several research papers, review articles and book chapters in the field of movement disorders. He has a research interest in the field of Parkinson’s disease and is able to continue his research interest with the help of the Clinical Research Network (CRN) in London.  

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