Dystonia is a neurological movement affliction in which overactive muscles and their associated contractions cause repetitive movements, twisting or abnormal postures.
The condition affects a relatively small population, approximately 100,000 to 200,000 individuals in the United States. Dystonia can impact isolated areas of the body, such as the head, neck, eyes or larynx, or can be more generalized, involving the arms, legs, trunk or back. Many dystonia sufferers experience continuous pain, cramping and ongoing muscle spasms.
In 1988, the University of Kansas Medical Center became one of the first institutions nationwide to use Oculinum – eventually renamed Botox® – under an investigational new drug study to make a positive impact on dystonia treatment.
Botox was first developed for therapeutic purposes and applied experimentally in the treatment of strabismus, or misalignment of the eyes. Since that time, Botox has evolved as a treatment option for numerous additional muscle control disorders. Since FDA approval in 1989, Botox has evolved as a therapy for cervical dystonia – which affects the head and neck – in 2000. The University of Kansas Health System neurology team includes experts who served at the forefront of that state-of-the-art clinical research and treatment development.
Today, physicians at the health system have performed more than 18,000 Botox injections to help dystonia sufferers gain control over their symptoms. These injections weaken the overachieving muscles and block the signals that cause the muscles to contract.
While the effects of Botox injections last about three to five months, repeated treatments over time have proven to continue to deliver benefits for many patients. Some of our patients, in fact, have been receiving injections and maintaining control of their dystonia symptoms for more than 25 years. While we cannot cure their ailments, our minimally invasive treatment has promoted condition management to help patients achieve optimal comfort and quality of life.
The most common onset of dystonia is in the early 40s and older. It once took seven to 10 doctors a timeframe of seven to 10 years to accurately diagnose and effectively treat a dystonia patient. Today, we believe diagnosis and treatment can be accomplished in no greater than one year. With earlier recognition and intervention, patients can more quickly achieve improvement and enjoy a longer period of effective condition management.
Physicians who want to determine if their patients may benefit from an evaluation by our department, should observe them for:
- Spasticity of the upper or lower limbs
- Excessive sustained muscle contraction
- Abnormal muscle tone or posture
- Slow rotation
- Excessive blinking
- In-turning of the feet
If the patients experience these symptoms, a visit to our clinic may be of value. We can assist them in maximizing control over dystonia symptoms to achieve the best possible quality of life.
Richard M. Dubinsky, MD, MPH, neurologist – Dr. Dubinsky is board-certified in neurology and electrodiagnostic medicine and holds a subspecialty certification in clinical neurophysiology. He is also a professor of neurology at the University of Kansas Medical Center and founder of the Dystonia Clinic.