Focal Dystonia



In most people, the cause is not known. In others, it may be due to genes.

FD can also be caused by a health problem or injury, such as:

  • Infection
  • Reactions to medicines
  • Problems during birth, such as lack of oxygen
  • Trauma
  • Heavy metals in the body
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Stroke
The Process of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Decreasing Available Oxygen
Carbon monoxide poisoning
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Risk Factors

FD is more common in people who have family members who have it.

It is also more common in people who have a health problem or injury that raises the risk.



Problems may be:

  • Eyelid spasms
  • Rapid or uncontrollable blinking of both eyes
  • Neck twisting
  • Problems writing
  • Foot cramps
  • Pulling or dragging of a foot
  • Shaking
  • Problems speaking

FD may get worse with:

  • Excitement
  • Stress
  • Talking
  • Being tired


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You may be sent to see a doctor who treats the nervous system. A neurologic exam may be done.

There are no tests to confirm FD. These tests may be done to rule out other problems:

  • Lab tests, such as blood, urine, and genetic testing
  • Lumbar puncture to look at the fluid surrounding the brain and spine

The electrical activity of the muscles, nerves, and brain may need to be measured. This can be done with:

  • Electromyography
  • Nerve conduction study
  • Electroencephalography

Pictures may be taken of the head. This can be done with:

  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound
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The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Options are:


The doctor may give one or more medicines:

  • Over the counter or prescription pain medicine
  • Anticholinergics
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Dopaminergic agents
  • Dopamine-depleting agents
  • Antiseizure medicine

Botulinum Toxin Injections

Injecting botulinum toxin into a muscle can weaken the muscle. The effect may last for 3 to 4 months.


Surgery may be done to:

  • Cut the nerves leading to muscles or to remove the muscles
  • Destroy the small site within the brain where dystonia occurs
  • Implant electrodes in the brain to control muscle movements


There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.