Saturday, March 10, 2007

How do I explain to someone what dystonia is?

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that causes muscles in the body to contract or spasm involuntarily. The involuntary muscle contractions cause twisting, repetitive and patterned movements as well as abnormal postures.

Dystonia is not a single disease but a syndrome – a set of symptoms that cannot be attributed to a single cause but share common elements. Some forms of dystonia may affect a specific body area, such as the neck, face, jaw, eyes, limbs or vocal cords.

Dystonia affects both men and women of all ages. It can develop in childhood and is often particularly disabling for children. Dystonia which manifests itself in adult life tends to remain focal, rather than becoming generalised.

The causes of dystonia are not yet fully understood, but it is thought that it may be caused by a chemical imbalance in a particular area of the brain called the basal ganglia where the messages to initiate muscle contractions are believed to originate. Dystonia is best classified according to the parts of the body affected.

If only one part of the body is affected, such as the eyes, neck, a limb, or the voice, it is called focal dystonia. If a larger region such as the neck and arms is involved, it is called segmental dystonia. If the spasms affect the arm and leg on the same side it is known as hemidystonia. If two or more unrelated parts of the body are affected it is named multifocal dystonia. Finally, if the dystonia is more widespread, the term generalised dystonia is used.

The above information is taken from Dystonia Australia. Links throughout this article refer back to the Dystonia Australia site and to the Australian Spasmodic Torticollis Association. There is also a link to Blind Dog films DVD, Twisted. If you have not yet visited this site I urge you to look it up now. You are able to order and pay for the DVD on line. This is an excellent resource for furthering your own knowledge and interest in Dystonia and also provides good insight for use with in-service training sessions and for a continuing professional education resource. Prices are structured for private use and for professional /educational use or public viewing. If you are a professional person working or studying in the area of health and or allied health, please do consider following up with this DVD.

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Finally, I ask you to keep the people in the Western Australian towns of Port Hedland and Karratha (see Australia link below), and the neighbouring areas along that coast line and inland, in your thoughts and prayers as they buckle up for the second cyclone in days to cross their shore. Lives have already been lost and many people are injured from the cyclone just passed. Now they are going through it all again without having enough time to clear up all the damage. It is my hope many people may have been flown out to safer areas. To do that, light aircraft will have needed to land in dreadful conditions to get them out.

Sue Bayliss, Cairns, Australia.

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