Types of Dystonia

There are many types of Dystonia and causes. This chart and page will give you an overview of some of them and the area of the body affected. Links are provided to direct you to more information. 

Types of Dystonia Diagram ADSG

Composed by ADSG Hariklia Nguyen. You need permission to copy and use this image.

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FOCAL – affects only one part of the body

Cervical Dystonia or Spasmodic Torticollis – neck

Cervical Dystonia

  • usually the neck is affected as laterocollis (head tilts to side), retrocollis (head tilts back) and as anterocollis (head tilts forward)
  • can affect the shoulders also
  • may experience jerky head movements
  • botulinum toxin injections can help reduce spasms and medications such as Clonazepam may help relax the muscles
  • sensory tricks such as touching the chin can temporarily reduce the dystonic symptoms

More info: Virtual Medical Centre – Cervical Dystonia and Spasmodic Torticollis – frequently asked questions

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FOCAL – affects only one part of the body

Blepharospasm – eye


  • there may be squinting of eyes, frequent blinking and have difficulties in keeping eyes open
  • the condition may progress where symptoms become more frequent and facial spasms may develop
  • treatment such as botulinum toxin injected into the muscles of the eyelids can weaken those muscles and relieve symptoms
  • myectomy, a surgical procedure which removes some of the muscles and nerves of the eyelids might help stop eyelid closure

More info: Better Health Channel Blepharospasm and Blepharospasm Australia

blue lineFOCAL – affects only one part of the body

Oromandibular dystonia – mouth, tongue or jaw


Face image: magerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • it can be primary or secondary
  • can affect chewing and speech
  • if jaw and tongue affected can cause swallowing difficulties
  • treatments such as botulinum toxin injections can reduce the contractions
  • sensory tricks such as chewing gum can temporarily reduce symptoms

More info – Oromandibular Dystonia (Dystonia UK) 

blue lineFOCAL – affects only one part of the body

Laryngeal Dystonia or Spasmodic Dysphonia – voice

Laryngeal Dystonia

  • experience spasms in the muscles of the larynx (voice box) that cause the voice to sound tight, strained or hoarse 
  • there are three types: adductor (sudden spasms causing vocal chords to close), abductor (sudden spasms that cause the vocal cords to open) and mixed (combination of adductor and abductor)
  • injecting small amounts of botulinum toxin into the larynx muscles which weakens them may help to improve the voice
  • other treatments such as speech therapy (providing the person alter voicing techniques) and surgery may help

More info – Virtual Medical Centre

blue lineFOCAL – affects only one part of the body

Hand Dystonia – specific task

Focal Hand Dystonia

Hand image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • tremor in the hand usually when writing or playing an instrument
  • pain may occur in the fingers or wrists 
  • musician’s cramp is a form that may also affect the hands and more common in musicians
  • botox, anticholinergic drugs such as Artane, and physiotherapy may help to relieve symptoms

More info – Focal hand Dystonia/Writer’s Cramp

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  TYPES that affect more than one part of the body

  • Generalised or Multifocal  – multiple parts of the body such as both arms or both legs
  • Segmental – adjacent parts of the body affected
  • Myoclonus – a genetic form that causes rapid jerky movements
  • Paroxysmal – a rare type which causes a sudden attack of spasms 
  • Dopa responsive – can be genetic and dopamine levels in the brain affected, usually difficulty in walking and responds well to the medicine Levodopa

More info: Brain Foundation

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Secondary Dystonias

  • Resulting from Parkinson’s Disease  
  • Metabolic Disorders – such as Wilson’s Disease
  • Brain injury or trauma – such as Stroke, Hemidystonia tumour
  • Dystonic Cerebral Palsy – damage to the brain of an infant
  • Medicine or drug induced – side effects from certain drugs (Tardive Dystonia)

More info – Acquired dystonia (was known as secondary dystonia)

blue lineFunctional Dystonia (Functional Neurological Disorder)

Functional Dystonia is also known as Psychogenic Dystonia where symptoms of Dystonia appear. Symptoms are considered involuntary – performed without conscious awareness or effort and usually triggered by an event or trauma. 

More info: Functional and Dissociative Neurological Symptoms : a patient’s guide or the Dystonia Society UK – Functional Dystonia. 

To direct you to other sites for more information relating to types of dystonia or causes you can visit our ‘Links’ page.

Back to homepageHow is Dystonia diagnosed


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