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Dystonia is a neurological condition ? one of the movement disorders ? in which involuntary muscle contractions cause twisting or repetitive movements, or abnormal body postures. Any part of the body may be affected: in some cases, only a single muscle is involved, while in others, a group of muscles [e.g. in the arm or leg], or the entire body may be affected.
Dystonia is generally described as primary or secondary:
Primary dystonia appears to have a genetic basis, and usually appears in childhood; the causes of adult-onset primary dystonia are not known, although it is also believed to be hereditary.
Secondary dystonia is caused by an injury to the brain, for example, during birth; after a stroke or head injury; after exposure to toxic substances such as carbon monoxide, methanol or cyanide; or as a side-effect of some medications. Multiple sclerosis and certain diseases [e.g. encephalitis, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, and HIV infection] can also cause secondary dystonia.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the dystonia, and is directed at controlling or reducing the symptoms. Treatment may include a combination of physiotherapy, medication to reduce the muscle spasms, and surgery.
In some cases, the symptoms of dystonia are relatively mild and do not progress, while in others there can be a worsening as the symptoms become more severe and difficult to control.
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