Dystonia typically develops slowly and may remain unrecognized for weeks or months. Mild symptoms often begin occurring after increased physical activity, fatigue or stress, but may occur at any time, even at rest.
Symptoms of dystonia may or may not progress over time, and include:
- Involuntary turning or pulling of the head to one side, forward or backward
- Rapid and uncontrollable blinking
- Progressively tighter handwriting after a few sentences
- Foot cramps
- Turning or dragging of one foot
- Voice or speech problems
- Body shakes
- Jerky movements
- Loss of control of parts of the body
- Body twisting
- Awkward postures
Dystonia does not affect involuntary, or smooth, muscles such as those found in the heart, bladder, intestines, respiratory tract and reproductive tract.
Causes and Risk Factors
In most cases, the cause of dystonia is unknown, though it is sometimes inherited. Dystonia can be a condition on its own or can be associated with a degenerative brain disease such as Parkinson's or Huntington's diseases. Other factors being considered as causes of dystonia include trauma or injury to the brain, brain tumors, stroke, or taking certain medications.