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Dystonia is a neurological disorder characterized by motor disorders of the muscle. It is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions resulting in prolonged and abnormal movements. This symptom does not appear at rest, but occurs during voluntary movements. The causes of this disease are essentially hereditary. There are several types of dystonia: dystonia may be primary, with a genetic or unknown origin, or secondary to another disease such as a stroke or a traumatic brain injury. Furthermore, dystonia is categorized according to the affected body parts. It is "focal" when it affects a single body part, "segmental" when it affects several parts and "widespread" when the whole body is affected.


Symptoms vary depending on the nature of the dystonia, and may include the following:
  • abnormal posturing and movement disorders;
  • cramps and involuntary muscle spasms;
  • difficulty finding a comfortable position for the arms and legs;
  • in general, symptoms improve with rest and worsen with stress.
  • a dystonic blepharospasm, which affects the upper eyelid making it close involuntarily;
  • cervical dystonia, with tight and painful neck muscles;
  • some dystonias may affect muscles that are used frequently such as those of the hand.


Dystonia is diagnosed by a specific interview and clinical examination that includes a neurological aspect. A blood test or an MRI of the brain is needed to rule out other possible causes of dystonia such as a stroke. Finally, to precisely locate the muscles involved in dystonia, an electromyogram (EMG) is sometimes practiced. It records the electrical activity of muscles at rest or in motion, and thus detects any potential anomalies.


Dystonia has no cure. The treatments that exist simply help to relieve symptoms. Various drug treatments are used and injections of botulinum toxin can help with symptoms in some cases.

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