Dystonia is a rare neurological movement disorder in which sustained muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures. The cause(s) of dystonia are not yet known or understood. Primary dystonia is suspected to be caused by a pathology of the central nervous system, likely originating in those parts of the brain concerned with motor function, such as the basal ganglia, and the GABA ( gamma-aminobutyric acid) producing Purkinje neurons in the cerebellum. In most cases it involve some genetic predisposition towards the disorder combined with environmental conditions.
Symptoms vary according to the kind of dystonia involved. In most cases, dystonia tends to lead to abnormal posturing, particularly on movement. Many sufferers have continuous pain, cramping and relentless muscle spasms due to involuntary muscle movements.
Treatment has been limited to minimizing the symptoms of the disorder, as there is yet no cure. Physicians may prescribe a series of different medications on a trial basis in an effort to find a combination that is effective for a specific patient. Drugs such as anticholinergics, which act as inhibitors of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, may provide some relief. Clonazepam, an anti-seizure medicine, is also sometimes prescribed. However, for most sufferers their effects are limited and side effects like often occur.
Surgery, such as the denervation of selected muscles, may also provide some relief; however, the destruction of nerves in the limbs or brain is not reversible and should only be considered in the most extreme cases. Recently, the procedure of deep brain stimulation (DBS) has proved successful in a number of cases of severe generalized dystonia.