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Key Facts

  • Dystonia is a movement disorder in which muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures;
  • More than 500,000 people are affected by dystonia across Europe;
  • It can develop at any time from childhood to adulthood, and it can occur spontaneously or as a result of another condition;
  • Although it is not a terminal illness, its symptoms can severely disrupt a person’s life.

What is dystonia?

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder involving involuntary and abnormal movements and postures which can affect just one part of the body or several different areas. It affects males and females of all ages; in adults, dystonia tends to remain located in a specific part of the body (focal form) such as the neck, hands, face or eyelids. However, if it starts in childhood, it often spreads to other parts of the body (generalized) and can be particularly disabling.

 The scale of the problem

Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder after Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. Epidemiological studies indicate that there are more than 500,000 people across Europe with some form of the disorder, many of whom are unaware that they have dystonia. The disorder can be difficult to diagnose, which means that many patients remain untreated, their symptoms unrecognised.

Dystonia fact sheet – PDF