Dystonia: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 3/13/2019

Dystonia is a medical term that refers to involuntary movements and prolonged muscle contractions that result in twisting body motions, abnormal posture, and tremors.

The involuntary movements may involve the entire body or only an isolated area. Associated symptoms of dystonia may include rapid eye blinking or closing, foot cramps, turning or dragging of the leg or foot, worsening in handwriting, neck movements, or difficulty speaking. The symptoms may worsen when the individual is tired or under stress. Sometimes the involuntary movements of dystonia may be painful.

Cause of dystonia

Several different disorders can cause dystonia. For example, genetic or inherited conditions or taking certain medications (particularly antipsychotic drugs) may cause dystonia. It also may be a symptom of other diseases.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/13/2019


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