What is Dystonia

Dystonia is a neurological movement condition which affects adults and children. It can affect any part of the body and causes muscles to contract or spasm. This may cause pain, tremors, twisting and other uncontrollable movements. Symptoms may be due to the Basal Ganglia or other areas of the brain that control movement. Neurotransmitters may send signals to muscles to cause them to be overactive.

Dystonia may be genetic or result from other health conditions such as stroke, other diseases, physical trauma, or as a side effect to certain medications. If the only sign or symptoms is Dystonia it is known as idiopathic or primary Dystonia. There are different forms of Dystonia which is explained in more detail on ourtypes of Dystonia’ page.

Dystonia is classified by looking at clinical features or appearance, such as the age it started, which area of the body affected, if it progresses or remains unchanged and considering if there is an underlying cause, and the possibility it is inherited. Over the years since clinical symptoms and causes for dystonia has been revealed, it led to implemetning a classification and defintion system. Link → The New Classification System for the Dystonias.

Prevalence in Australia

In Australia, there is no epidemiological data from Australia or a lack of research on the number of Australians who have Dystonia. However an estimate from overseas research, Primary Dystonia affects around 3 in 1000 people and this extrapolates to 70,000 people in Australia.
Source link: Epidemiology of primary dystonia
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Link to document with brief history of Dystonia and unmet needs in a field that is evolving very fast  Unmet Needs in Dystonia PDF or EPUB

History of Dystonia

In 1911 Hermann Openhein a German Neurologist invented the term “dystonia musculorum deforums”.

Polish Neurologists, Flatau and Sterling disagreed with the term “musculorum” because they believed that it was just not a muscle condition. Not all became deformed and they considered the genetic nature of the condition. They preferred the term “progressive torsion spasm”.  

Dystonia comes from modern Latin word dys and Greek word tonos (meaning tension).

More information

Translation of Oppenheim’s 1911 paper on dystonia
Evolution of the concept of dystonia
A History of Dystonia: Ancient to Modern
Nature Reviews Fig. 1: History of dystonia

Further information about Dystonia  What is Dystonia? 

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