A benign neurological disorder in which twisting and repetitive or sustained but unwanted muscle contraction occurs in a body part. It can affect a specific muscle (focal dystonia), a region of the body (regional dystonia), or even the body as a whole (generalized dystonia).

Common focal dystonias include laryngeal (spasmodic dysphonia or respiratory dystonia); ocular (blepharospasm); neck or cervical (torticollis and related neck disorders); and limb dystonia (writer’s cramp). Treatment for focal dystonias is most commonly via Botox™ injection into affected muscles, and occasionally by selective denervation. More regional and generalized dystonias may respond to a variety of systemic medications such as clonazepam and others.

Respiratory Dystonia and the Struggle to Breathe

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AD SD (1 of 2)

This man has adductory spasmodic dysphonia. He also struggles to breathe because his vocal cords do not remain open as shown here when he breathes in, but instead intermittently spasm briefly to a closed or nearly-closed position, such as seen in photo 2.

Involuntarily adduction (2 of 2)

An example of an involuntary partial closure. Instead of remaining open as in photo 1, they involuntarily adduct to a partially closed position. The patient feels the sudden restriction of his ability to inspire and he also makes an involuntary inspiratory noise. An example of the phenomenology of respiratory dystonia can be heard in the audio clips below.