Owners' Blog

What is Parkinson’s Dystonia?

By Hilary and Greg Eldridge

There are approximately 1 million people in the United States with Parkinson’s disease (PD). It’s a progressive disease that has no cure. PD causes a variety of symptoms, and they can be different from one person to the next. Some symptoms of PD can be especially difficult for older adults and their family caregivers to deal with. One such symptom is dystonia. Knowing more about the symptom and how it affects PD patients can help you to be prepared and better manage the problem.


About Dystonia

Dystonia is the painful and involuntary contraction of muscles. The contractions go on for a while and cause the muscles to twist. This can result in abnormal body postures and movements. Dystonia often starts in one part of the body, such as the face, neck, an arm, or a leg. Then it spreads to other areas. It sometimes occurs during specific activities, such as when a person is writing. It may be worse during times of stress or anxiety, and sometimes gets worse over time.


The severity of dystonia depends on the person. Some people have only mild symptoms. For others, dystonia can be disabling and require that they have full-time assistance from a family caregiver or elderly care provider.


The actual cause of dystonia is unknown. Experts believe it has something to do with a dysfunction in a part of the brain affected by Parkinson’s. About 40 percent of people with PD will experience dystonia either as a symptom of the disease or because of treatment complications.


How is Dystonia Treated?

If your aging relative with PD experiences dystonia, be sure to talk to their doctor about it. There are several treatments available. Levodopa and anticholinergic medications are often used to improve both dystonia and other symptoms of PD. Unfortunately, levodopa tends to be less effective with long-term use. Also, when levodopa wears off, dystonia can return and be worse than before.


Some people with dystonia opt to have deep brain stimulation (DBS), which is a kind of surgery. DBS is sometimes used to treat other aspects of PD, but the area of the brain that is stimulated may be different.


The doctor might also recommend using muscle relaxants or botulinum injections. Physical therapy might also be helpful. Sometimes people find yoga, meditation, or tai chi alleviates dystonia, though there hasn’t been enough scientific research conducted to say for certain that they help.


People who are affected by PD can benefit from having an elderly care provider assist them during episodes of dystonia. An elderly care provider can handle the tasks that become impossible due to disability, such as light housecleaning, food preparation, and laundry. Elderly care providers can also remind older adults to take medications prescribed by their doctors.

Sources

https://www.michaeljfox.org/understanding-parkinsons/living-with-pd/topic.php?dystonia&navid=dystonia

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dystonia/symptoms-causes/syc-20350480

http://parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Causes-and-Statistics/Statistics

http://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/what-is-parkinsons

If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring elderly care in Woodstock, GA, please contact the caring staff at Home Helpers, call (678) 430-8511.