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 our ‘types 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 progressives or remains unchanged and considering if there is an underlying cause, and the possibility it is inherited – The New Classification System for the Dystonias.
In Australia, there is a lack of research on the number of Australians who have Dystonia. However Chief Investigator, Dr Florence Chang ( Westmead Hospital) who was a Brain Foundation 2014 Gift Recipient stated, that Primary Dystonia affects around 3 in 1000 people and this extrapolates to 70,000 people in Australia. Link: How many people suffer from Dystonia in Australia?
In 1911 Hermann Openhein a German Neurologist invented the term “dystonia musculorum deforums”.
Polish Neurologists, Flatau and Sterling disagreed with the term “musculorum” becuase 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”.