Dystonia Movement Disorders
To many people, sometimes even experienced doctors, the involuntary movements, limited mobility, abnormal muscular postures, and verbal tremors that are symptomatic of dystonia simply point to other neuromuscular disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease or Tourette syndrome . To make matters more confusing, dystonia is not just one medical condition, but a group of movement disorders that affect either a single muscle or group of muscles primarily in the arms, legs, or neck.
A Collection of DisordersSeveral distinct patterns of dystonia fall under the dystonia movement disorders umbrella. Symptoms generally involve:
- Involuntary, long-lasting muscle contractions causing twisting, abnormal postures, or repetitive movements of a particular part of the body
- Occasionally, movement is affected throughout the entire body
- Speech problems, tremor, or uncontrollable eye blinking may occur
What Causes It?The gene DYT1 on chromosome nine appears to be linked to early-onset dystonia. DYT1 is responsible for making a damaging protein—torsin A. The protein interferes with the brain’s ability to process a group of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals needed for normal muscle contraction include GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), dopamine, acetylcholine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Other less common gene mutations have also been linked to dystonia. Other forms of dystonia are linked with injury, stroke , or environmental triggers, such as lack of oxygen during birth, certain infections, reactions to certain drugs, or heavy-metal or carbon monoxide poisoning . Dystonias may also appear as a symptom of other inherited diseases. Dystonias do not shorten life expectancy, except in rare cases.
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