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Dystonia Fact Sheet

View Dystonia Fact Sheet (PDF, 348 KB)

Dystonia treatment at UK HealthCare

The Movement Disorders Clinic specializes in the evaluation and treatment of disorders of gait, coordination and other aspects of movement including dystonia.

What is dystonia?

Dystonia is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive muscle contractions. These contractions usually cause twisting and jerking movements or abnormal positions of the body or body part. Primary dystonia is caused by to a genetic mutation, typically has an early onset and becomes generalized. Secondary dystonias can be associated with other neurological diseases or caused by medications, (confined to a particular part of the body) and begin later in life.

Diagnosing dystonia

There are a number of tests to diagnose dystonia. A physician can be able to diagnose dystonia through a general physical examination, neurological examination or laboratory tests, such as blood and urine testing. The physician may also evaluate the nature of dystonia, by considering the following:

  • Apparent age at symptom onset
  • Bodily distribution
  • Disease progression
  • Whether certain sensory tricks temporarily suppress dystonic movements

If dystonia is not always present, the physician may use a variety of methods to help trigger dystonia, such as requesting that a patient repeatedly open and shut his or her eyes. The examiner may also conduct passive movements of the body region affected by dystonia.


In some individuals, symptoms of dystonia may become apparent during childhood. For other individuals, the symptoms emerge in late adolescence, early adulthood or even later in life. Early symptoms of dystonia may include speech difficulties, foot cramps or a dragging foot after running or walking some distance. The initial symptoms are sometimes noticeable only after stress or fatigue. Over a period of time, the symptoms may become more noticeable and widespread with little or no progression.

Treating dystonia

There are three main approaches to the treatment of dystonia: oral medications, injections directly into the muscle affected by dystonia and surgery. There are currently no known treatments that can reverse the course of primary dystonia. However, symptoms may usually be managed well with a combination of treatments.


UK Healthcare Movement Disorders Clinic

Dystonia Medical Research Foundation

NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

Page last updated: 8/1/2014 10:19:54 AM