Dystonia is a neurological disease that has disturbing effects on the body. Involuntary muscle movements characterize it. Unlike hemifacial spasms, it can be painful and affect the whole body. Dystonia affects only about 1% of the population, but for a neurologist, it is something they see nearly every day. The symptoms of dystonia vary depending on the severity of the problem. There are many different types and many different causes. Sometimes you do not pay attention to certain conditions because it does not affect you directly. If you are dealing with dystonia, there is not a cure, but it can be managed.
The nervous system is extremely important to our health and the way our bodies function. Nerves control everything. Muscle movement is one of the main things it controls. When we need to grab something, we just do it. We do not think too hard about it. When our brains do not communicate with our muscles properly, we cannot move appropriately. There are many different parts of the brain. Each part is responsible for something different. The basal ganglia is a part of the brain connected to the thalamus. The basal ganglia are responsible for the coordination of movement. Any movement disorder is a result of basal ganglia problems.
When nerve cells do not communicate properly with the basal ganglia, muscles will not contract appropriately. It is possible to be born with this issue, but it is not common. Most of the time dystonia is acquired through different things. Several different things may disrupt the communication of nerves to the basal ganglia. Brain tumors are one source of the problem. Brain tumors can rest on the basal ganglia. Brain trauma is another source of problems. When you hit your head a certain way, it may bruise the brain and damage the basal ganglia. Infections are another source of problems. Strokes are a result of a cut-off of blood supply to the brains, and when there is no blood, there is also no oxygen. The lack of blood and oxygen can cause permanent damage to the basal ganglia. Drug abuse or misuse is another cause of problems. Drugs have a major effect on nerves and the operation of nerves.
Symptoms of dystonia differ. Symptoms may range from mild to severe. Dystonia affects either one muscle, a group of muscles, or the whole body. Every part of the body is susceptible to dystonia. Some of the beginning symptoms may start in the legs or the eye. The eye will twitch uncontrollably. Your legs may drag, and foot cramps can be constant. Speech and neck jerks are other symptoms that are considered mild. There are many muscles attached to each part of the body. When only one muscle of the eye, leg, or foot are affected, things are not that bad. When most of the muscles controlling those areas are affected, you will have a lot more problems. As things progress, it affects other parts of the body. Sometimes it gets to the point that your whole body is jerking uncontrollably. A lot of times dystonia affects the upper body. You experience a lot of fatigue. The constant muscle contractions are tiring. You feel worn out. The pain soon sets in.
Types of Dystonia
There are five different types of dystonia. The first type is generalized dystonia which affects the whole body. Focal dystonia affects just one body part. It is called focal because dystonia focuses on only one area. Hemidystonia affects the arm and leg on the same side of the body. Segmental dystonia is similar, but it affects parts of the body adjacent to one another. That could mean the hand and arm are affected, or the neck and head could be affected. Multifocal dystonia is the last type. It affects random parts of the body that may not be connected in any way.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Once you are diagnosed with dystonia, the doctor has to determine the next method of treatment. Treatment is dependent upon the severity of the problem. Botox is an effective method of treatment because it stops the jerking movements. Botox paralyzes the muscle. It can ease your problems. Other medications help control contractions. In the most serious cases, you may need surgery. A deep brain stimulator (DBS) is placed inside the body and helps to control nerve impulses to the muscles that are contracting. After surgery, the doctor adjusts the DBS to the right setting. This is a great method of treatment, and the best part is that it can be adjusted.
Dystonia is not necessarily life-threatening, but it may cause you to be physically disabled. Neurological disorders are very difficult to deal with, and when you are not being treated, it takes over your whole life. For most people, dystonia is an acquired condition. Since it only affects 1% of the population, you may not be aware of it. If you notice symptoms of dystonia, make sure to see a physician. Do not let uncontrollable movements take over your life; take your control back.
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