Dystonia Evaluation

Appointment New Patient Appointment or 214-645-8300

Although dystonia is one of the most common movement disorders, it’s frequently misdiagnosed. Symptoms of dystonia aren’t consistent from patient to patient, so many physicians don’t recognize the patterns of the disorder. UT Southwestern Medical Center physicians are specially trained in the diagnosis and management of dystonia.


Researchers believe that dystonia results from an abnormality in or damage to the basal ganglia – clusters of tightly interconnected nerve cells deep in the brain that are responsible for voluntary motor control.

The abnormality or damage could be the result of:

  • An inherited condition caused by genetic mutations
  • Birth injuries
  • Exposure to certain drugs
  • Trauma or injury to the nervous system, caused by infection, stroke, or multiple sclerosis

In many cases, no specific trigger or cause is identifiable.

Symptoms of Dystonia

Dystonia symptoms can start at any age but usually appear between the ages of 20 and 60 and most often between ages 30 and 50. Symptoms can be mild or severe, and they can interfere with a person’s ability to complete daily tasks. Dystonia can affect the whole body or certain parts of the body, and symptoms vary, depending on the type of dystonia the patient has.

The main symptoms of dystonia are:

  • Abnormal posture
  • Cramps
  • Involuntary muscle contractions that result in slow, repetitive movements
  • Twisting body movements

Symptoms might also include:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Foot cramps
  • Muscle tremors
  • Rapid eye blinking or closing
  • Turning or dragging of the foot
  • Worsening of handwriting

Symptoms might become more noticeable when a person is tired or under stress.


Diagnosis is usually based on a clinical evaluation by a neurologist. The types of tests each patient needs can vary widely and might include any of the following:

Neurologists at UT Southwestern provide not only an accurate diagnosis but also options for treatment plans based on each patient’s diagnosis and goals. The Movement Disorders team maintains an ongoing relationship with each patient, monitoring progress and offering support at every step.