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Dystonia (Blepharospasm, Spasmotic Torticollis)

Dystonia is a movement disorder which causes a person’s muscles to contract uncontrollably. The symptoms of dystonia causes the effected body part to twist or move involuntarily resulting in repetitive movements or abnormal postures. Dystonia seems to be related to a problem in the basal ganglia (the area of the brain that controls muscle contractions).

There are different types of dystonia which are classified by the body part effected:

  • Generalized dystonia: affects most or all of the body
  • Focal dystonia: affects a specific body part
  • Multifocal dystonia: affects more than one body part which are unrelated
  • Segmental distonia: involves adjacent body parts
  • Hemidystonia: affects the arm and leg on one side of the body

Dystonia can also be classified as syndromes based on their patterns:

  • Blepharospasm affects the eyes. Symptoms can be uncontrolled blinking and spasms causing the eyelids to involuntary close. Vision is usually not affected, but sight is difficult due to the dysfunction of the eyelids
  • Cervica dystonia (spasmodic torticollis) affects the neck muscles causing the head to twist, turn or be pulled forward or backward
  • Cranial dystonia affects the head, face and neck muscles
  • Oromandibular dystonia affects the jaw, lips and tongue muscle which can cause issues with speech and swallowing
  • Spasmodic dystonia affects the throat muscles that control speech
  • Tardive dystonia is caused by a reaction to a drug; this dystonia is usually temporary and treatable
  • Paroxysmal Dystonia is episodic; symptoms are only present during attacks
  • Torsion dystonia is a very rare dystonia that affects the entire body and causes significant disability
  • Writer’s cramp affects the muscles of the hands and forearms and only occurs when the person is writing


(Worldwide Education and Awareness for Movement Disorders)

5731 Mosholu Avenue, Bronx, NY 10471
Tel: (347)843-6132   |   Fax: (718)601-5112

National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association

300 Park Boulevard, Suite 415, Itasca, IL 60143
Tel: (800)795-6732   |   Fax: (630)250-4505

Dystonia Medical Research Foundation

1 East Wacker Drive, Suite 2810, Chicago, IL 60601-1905
Tel: (312)755-0198   |   Fax: (312)803-0138   |   Tel: (800)377-3978

NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

1P.O. Box 5801, Bethesda, MD 20824
Tel: (301)496-5751   |   Fax: (301)402-2186   |   Tel: (800)352-9424   |   TDD: (301)468-5981

Spasmodic Torticollis ST/Dystonia, Inc.

PO Box 28, Mukwonago, WI 53149
Tel: (262)560-9534   |   Fax: (262)560-9535   |   Tel: (888)445-4588

Movement Disorder Society

555 E. Wells Street, Suite 1100, Milwaukee, WI 53202-3823
Tel: (414)276-2145   |   Fax: (414)276-3349

American Dystonia Society

17 Suffolk Lane, Suite 1, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550
Tel: (310)237-5478   |   Fax: (609)275-5663