Dystonia is a class of movement disorders in which muscle contractions cause twisting and abnormal postures. These movements are involuntary and often painful, and they can occur in a single muscle, a group of muscles, or on an entire side of the body. Symptoms can start small such as difficulty writing or foot cramps and may only be noticeable after long periods of exercise, with stress or fatigue. Symptoms of dystonia can be genetic in origin, or caused by a birth injury, heavy metal poisoning, drug exposure, or infections, but the cause is not known in approximately half of the cases. There is no single treatment used to fight dystonia. Some patients respond well to medications, and for cases localized to a specific part of the body, injections of botulinum toxin (Botox) may be used to weaken the muscles, improving both the abnormal movements and the pain often associated with those movements. In cases that do not respond to either approach, a neurosurgical treatment called deep brain stimulation may be used, which involves the use of a device similar to a pacemaker.
At UAB, our nationally known Movement Disorders Service features several neurologists, each with a specialty focus one of these conditions. Because of the high national regard for our physicians, thousands of patients annually seek evaluation and treatment at our Comprehensive Parkinson Disease (PD) and Movement Disorder Clinic. Many are drawn by our designation as both an APDA Parkinson’s Disease Information and Referral Center and as a Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia and Parkinson’s Disease Program of Excellence.
At our clinic you will receive sensitive care from our nursing staff. You will benefit from the full array of the latest diagnostic and treatment methods, including neuropsychological evaluations, medications, deep brain stimulation surgery, and botulinum toxin injection therapy. Our specialists in physical, occupational, and speech therapy are available to help you maximize your functional abilities and quality of life while in treatment.
Because we are an academic and research center, you may be eligible to test new medical and surgical therapies, including neuroprotective therapies for Parkinson disease. Each new patient at the UAB Movement Disorders Clinic is evaluated for inclusion in these ongoing trials. We work with UAB functional neurosurgeons to coordinate treatment strategies for movement disorders, including PD, dystonia, and essential tremor.
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