There are treatments for dystonia, and most involve medication, electrical stimulation, or the use of chemical injections. These treatments can help the patient relax his or her muscles and reduce tremors, shaking, and other involuntary movements. Currently, there are no medications that are effective in preventing dystonia or slowing its progression, but therapy, medication, and certain surgical procedures can help relieve the symptoms that it causes.
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Before treating dystonia, it is important to understand what it is and how it occurs. Dystonia is a muscle and movement illness. It leads to extreme and unnecessary muscle contractions that are beyond the control of the patient. It can lead to painful contortions of the entire body or parts of the body.
It can be localized in one area and may only affect one muscle or a group of muscles, but it can also affect the entire body more generally. It is not uncommon for patients of dystonia to suffer from involuntary movements or twitching of the face, eyes, neck, jaw, limbs, or torso.
Patients under the age of 21 who develop dystonia are more likely to develop the condition throughout their bodies. After the age of 21, dystonia tends to localize in the upper portions of the body.
Types of Dystonia
The three major types of dystonia are:
- Idiopathic, which has no known cause.
- Genetic, which gets inherited from the parents via a genetic abnormality.
- Acquired, which can develop as a result of environmental factors, injury, exposure to harmful chemicals or toxins, or medical negligence.
Within these categories, the most common type of dystonia is cervical dystonia, which affects the muscles in the neck. This type of dystonia can lead to issues with controlling the head and maintaining posture.
Blepharospasm is the second most common type of localized dystonia and leads to uncontrollable blinking. Cranio-facial dystonia affects the head and face, and oromandibular dystonia affects the muscles in and around the mouth and lips, affecting the patient’s ability to speak and swallow.
Causes and Symptoms of Dystonia
Anyone can develop dystonia, and it affects roughly 250,000 people in the United States, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Roughly 33% of these patients are children, and it is the third most common movement disorder after essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease.
Common causes of dystonia include:
- Genetic abnormalities.
- Birth injuries.
- Stroke or internal bleeding.
- Certain medications.
- Neurological diseases.
Some of the more common signs and symptoms of dystonia are as follows:
- Involuntary muscle contractions
- Abnormal movements that result in pain
- Tremors, shaking, and repeated writhing movements
- Cramps in the feet
- An inability to move the hands or limbs in certain ways
- Deterioration in the patient’s ability to write or play musical instruments that they used to play before without any issues
- Difficulty speaking or vocalizing certain words or sounds
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Treatments for Dystonia
Based on the causes of your dystonia, the symptoms you exhibit, and the severity of your condition, your doctor will try to diagnose your illness. Once you have a diagnosis, a doctor can begin to administer treatment.
As mentioned above, most treatments for dystonia help the patient recover his or her physical functions and manage the movements or pain it causes. It is not currently possible to reverse or slow the progression of dystonia, but the treatments we discuss below may help.
Botulinum Injections Are a Common Dystonia Treatment
Botulinum injections can treat localized cases of dystonia that affect a single muscle or one part of the body. Botulinum can help reduce or altogether prevent muscle contractions by blocking the chemical that causes the muscles to contract. These injections are the treatment of choice for many patients because they typically start to work a few days after receiving the injection, and they can last months before another injection is necessary.
Dystonia May Respond to Medication
Medications and certain sedatives in controlled amounts can help to adjust chemical imbalances in the body and prevent unwanted contractions or tremors. However, some of these medications can have serious side effects—such as weight gain, dry mouth, drowsiness, or constipation—which may limit their usefulness.
When Surgery May Be Necessary for Treating Dystonia
Surgical interventions such as deep brain stimulation, or DBS, can help patients who do not improve with the use of medicine or injections, or those whose side effects from these noninvasive treatments are too severe. With DBS, doctors send electrical pulses to the part of the brain that is creating dystonic symptoms in the patient. These pulses block or disrupt the signals causing those symptoms.
Other Dystonia Treatments
Finally, speech therapy, muscle strengthening exercises, the use of assistive devices, stress management techniques, and mental or socio-emotional therapy can also help a patient overcome his or her symptoms.
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Drug and chemical treatments, surgery, therapy, and long-term rehabilitation can be expensive. You should not have to bear the financial burden of treating dystonia if it was caused by the carelessness, inexperience, or negligence of a doctor or medical facility that owed you a duty of care.
To learn more about treatments for dystonia and receive a free case evaluation, please contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today at (800) 222-9529.