Myoclonic dystonia (also referred to as myoclonus dystonia) is an uncommon form of dystonia often mistaken for essential tremor. Myoclonus is evident when sudden electric shock like, rapid jerking movements occur either alone or alternatively, in combination with the sustained muscular contractions and postures common in dystonia. Hence, the term myoclonic dystonia is used to describe this form of dystonia. This specific type of dystonia most commonly occurs in childhood but is different to early onset dystonia. The latter usually affects the legs whereas myoclonic dystonia affects the upper body in the neck, trunk and arms. Positive identification of myoclonus dystonia is now possible through scientific research results identifying a gene specific to this uncommon form of dystonia.
Although treatment for myoclonic dystonia is predominantly given in tablet form, treatment is not essential. Some people may decide not to have treatment. If people decide they will follow through with a treatment plan, a combination of drugs may be prescribed to treat both the myoclonus and the dystonia. In addition to these drugs, botulinum toxin is usually used in addition to the oral medications. Myoclonus can skip generations, and is somewhat variable in severity between people, even within the one family. Like other forms of dystonia, this disease does not affect the person’s mind, nor does it affect their senses.
Feelings of anxiety may intensify the symptoms of myoclonus. This is particularly so in any form of dystonia. The good news is, speaking to a genetic counselor about genetic issues can reduce anxiety and offer a better understanding of the implications this condition may have upon other family members.
If you would like to read more about myoclonus, click on the links above. They will take you to Dystonia Australia and to Dystonia U.K.. Over the coming week I will focus on other less common forms of dystonia. Meanwhile, if you have specific questions about your own health or that of a relative, there is no substitute for your family doctor or a member of a Dystonia Treatment Team working with people suffering from the many forms of dystonia.
Sue Bayliss. Cairns, Australia.