The Dystonia Society

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Classification of types of dystonia

Type of Dystonia

Cause

Distribution

Time of Onset

Part of the body affected

Symptoms

Primary generalised dystonia Primary Pure Generalised Early onset Throughout the body, particularly the trunk

• Turning in or dragging of foot or leg
• Clumsy or unsteady walking
• Painful twisting postures
• Can lead to permanent deformity
• Spread to involve other parts of body

Cervical dystonia Primary Pure Focal (sometimes part of multifocal or segmental) Late onset Neck • Causes head to twist
• Often associated with tremor
• Can be extremely painful

Blepharospasm

Primary Pure

Focal (sometimes part of multifocal or segmental)

Late onset

Around the eyes

• Excessive blinking
• In more severe cases, eyes can spontaneously clamp shut

Oromandibular dystonia

Primary Pure

Focal (sometimes part of multifocal or segmental)

Late onset

Jaw, tongue and/or mouth

• Strange movements of face and mouth
• In some cases, eating and swallowing difficult

Laryngeal dystonia or spasmodic dysphonia Primary Pure Focal (sometimes part of multifocal or segmental)  Late onset  Vocal cords • Affects speech – voice either strangled or breathy
Focal hand dystonia   

Primary Pure

Focal Late Onset Forearm and/or hand (also called writer’s cramp) • Hand and/or fingers contort, twist or go into spasm when used
• Often specific to tasks
Myoclonus dystonia    Primary Plus Multifocal Early onset  Neck, trunk and arms • Jerking movements combined with other symptoms of dystonia
Dopa-reponsive dystonia     Primary Plus Generalised Early onset Throughout the body, particularly the trunk and legs • Turning in or dragging of foot or leg
• Clumsy or unsteady walking / affects mobility
• Painful twisting postures
• Symptoms worsen as day goes on
• Good response to drug levo-dopa
Paroxysmal
Dystonia
Primary paroxysmal Focal or generalised Early onset  All or part of the body • Episodes during which dystonia affects the body – often hemidystonia or generalied
• Episodes last from minutes to hours
• Between episodes no sign of a problem
Tardive dystonia Secondary (caused by drugs) Usually multifocal Late onset One or more of face, tongue, trunk, neck, arm, leg • Face and/or tongue movements
• Spasms of trunk, neck, arm and/or leg

Secondary dystonia   
    

Many causes Any site singly or in combination  Any age From focal to total body involvement with difficult  • Spasms in face, trunk and/or limbs 
 • Difficulty feeding, sitting, lying, sleeping 
Difficulty with speech or unable to speak 

 

Go to next section of good practice guide.

Last reviewed October 2011

Disclaimer
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.

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