It is estimated that over 40,000 people in the UK have some form of dystonia, but as the condition can be hard to diagnose, this number may be even higher. Dystonia is a neurological disorder of the brain that affects the way we control our muscles and movement.
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Dystonia causes involuntary sustained muscle contractions that lead to abnormal movements and postures. However, other brain functions such as memory and intellect are not affected.
There are different types of the condition, focal dystonia being the most common, which affects only one part of the body.
Dystonia can develop in children and adults; in children the disorder tends to become more generalised, affecting most of the body and is often genetic in origin, whereas in adults the disorder remains focal. People with conditions such as Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease may experience dystonia as a symptom of their condition.
Dystonia can be inherited or caused for other reasons, such as stroke, but in many cases the exact cause is not well understood. It is thought that the condition is linked to damage of the part of the basal ganglia in the brain, but it is important that more research is carried out into dystonia to help understand the causes and to devise treatments and possibly a cure.