Dystonia is a neurological disorder in which there are involuntary movements, usually with twisting or turning into abnormal postures that can be spasmodic in nature. In neurology, dystonia is one of the conditions that must be diagnosed based on its features, and it requires expertise in both diagnosis and treatment. It can affect children and adults. It may involve one body area, such as a twisting of the neck (cervical dystonia), closing of the eyes (blepharospasm), cramping of the hand (writer's cramp), or twisting of an arm or leg (limb dystonia). It may also involve several parts of the body (generalized dystonia). Sometimes there can be pain associated with the movements. Although not a life-threatening disorder in the typical case, dystonia can cause disability and reduced quality of life.
Several genes are associated with dystonia. This is most frequent in childhood onset dystonia. In adult onset dystonia, although there may be a hereditary component, it is rare. Dystonia is a treatable condition, and although a cure has not yet been found, many patients lead active, full lives with appropriate management.
The Rush Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorders Center in Chicago is internationally known for its work in dystonia and focuses on the optimal care of dystonia patients. Rush physicians are experts in diagnosis and management, including oral medications, botulinum toxin injections, alternative approaches to dystonia and deep brain stimulation surgery. The Rush dystonia program also has knowledgeable nurses who provide excellent support for our patients. This includes addressing any problems, completion of forms, prescriptions and referrals for physical and occupational therapy.
In addition, the Dystonia Study Group, a national group of clinical dystonia experts from all parts of the country, resides at Rush and collaborates closely with the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation. There also are a variety of research activities that provide opportunities for patients to participate in finding new and better ways to approach the disorder.
The clinical team includes six dystonia experts, two nurses, a videographer and numerous support staff. Rush was the first Chicago neurology program to provide botulinum toxin injections to patients and has some of the most experienced injectors in the country. In addition, we have an expert team of neurologists, nurse practioners and neurosurgeons with extensive experience in deep brain stimulation.