Paroxysmal dystonias are a group of rare dystonias which are short, episodic periods of dystonic movements which are only visible during attacks. Between attacks there are usually no other visible symptoms.
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Some forms of paroxysmal dystonia are triggered by things such as sudden movement, fatigue, coffee and alcohol. Attacks may be brief, lasting only seconds or a few minutes, whereas in others the attacks can be much longer, lasting several minutes to hours. Some individuals may have many attacks per day, whereas others experience them very infrequently.
During an attack, people do not lose consciousness, and are completely aware of their surroundings. Paroxysmal dystonias do not affect the mind or the senses. They are not the same as epilepsy, and therefore do not necessarily disqualify one from driving (though advice should be sought from the driving licence authority [DVLA].)
Although no cure presently exists for people with paroxysmal dystonias, a great deal of research is currently underway around the world, with significant progress. This condition is not life-threatening, but treatment is essential and usually based on a drug regime. Though paroxysmal dystonia is not the same as epilepsy, many sufferers are successfully treated by using small doses of the same drugs used to treat epilepsy. In some, these medications can stop attacks completely. Drugs are not universally effective, and some individuals do experience side-effects.
If you think you might be suffering from paroxysmal dystonia, you should consult your doctor for further diagnosis and treatment.
Paroxysmal dystonia can be a challenging condition to live with. The attacks can be unpredictable, and interrupt everyday life. This is a rare condition, and therefore most people, including some doctors, will not have heard of it. Some people may confuse paroxysmal dystonia with epilepsy.
The Dystonia Society is committed to ensuring that everyone with dystonia has access to the treatments they need, which includes raising awareness about dystonia in all its various forms. The Society is a good source of support and information for those who suffer from dystonia and their friends and families. We offer helpline services and regional support groups, a website full of information and resources (including an active forum,) and support research into treatment and practical methods of coping.
For more information, call our helpline on 0845 458 6322
Last reviewed January 2013
The Dystonia Society provides the information on this page as general information only. It is not intended to provide instruction and you should not rely on this information to determine diagnosis, prognosis or a course of treatment. It should not be used in place of a professional consultation with a doctor.
The Dystonia Society is not responsible for the consequences of your decisions resulting from the use of this information, including, but not limited to, your choosing to seek or not to seek professional medical care, or from choosing or not choosing specific treatment based on the information. You should not disregard the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider because of any information you receive from us. If you have any health care questions, please consult the relevant medical practitioner.