Recent Questions and Answers
Is there an overlap or connection between Parkinson's disease and dystonia?
Dystonia and Parkinson's disease both affect the are of the brain called the basal ganglia. While scientists know that Parkinson's disease affects a particular structure within the basal ganglia called the substantia nigra, the exact part responsible for dystonia is still unknown.
Sometimes, patients with Parkinson's disease exhibit symptoms that look very similar to the hyperkinetic movements that characterize dystonia. These uncontrollable muscle contractions, lightening-like jerks, or painful cramping in feet or toes are very dystonic in nature and are usually caused by certain medications that are given to help Parkinson's disease patients. Conversely, elderly dystonia patients, who have the genetic form of the disease, may have swallowing difficulties, slowness of movement, and reduced voice volume that is often seen in the late stages of Parkinson's disease. Although researchers have not found a direct link between these two diseases, there is great interest in some of the symptom crossover and more researchers are looking at the relationship of these two movement disorders.
Can dystonia be helped in any way other than medical therapies, or surgery?
Patients with dystonia may not always respond to one type of treatment, so multiple therapeutic procedures may be combined for the most effective care. Physical therapy, while not curative, can be a good adjunct to treatment that can help with strengthening and help prevent severe muscle contractions. Occupational therapy can be useful in finding better ways to do every day tasks without pain. Speech therapy can help to increase voice volume and improve swallowing difficulties. Some patients report help from gentle exercise like Tai Chi, yoga, light weight training and swimming. In addition, support groups are often an excellent source of information and provide a great forum for patients to share their own experience with the disease.
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