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How One Condition Is Often Mistaken for Parkinson’s

September 30, 2022

Tremors and jerking movement make people think of Parkinson’s disease, but a Hartford HealthCare movement disorders neurologist said it can easily be a sign of dystonia as well.

Dystonia, which is actually a symptom of Parkinson’s disease, is characterized by sustained or involuntary muscle contractions that result in abnormal movements or postures, explained Jeffrey Lahrmann, MD, with the Ayer Neuroscience Institute Chase Family Movement Disorders Center.

“These contractions are commonly associated with either initiating or continuing on with voluntary movements,” he said.

> Connect with the Chase Family Movement Disorders Center

Commonly misdiagnosed

Symptoms of dystonia regularly lead healthcare providers to the wrong conclusion. Those symptoms can be:

  • Twisting movement
  • Tremors
  • Pain in the affected area

“These can cause misdiagnosis as bone and joint disease, essential tremor or other neurologic conditions,” Dr. Lahrmann said. “It’s important to seek a diagnosis by a movement disorders specialist, who conducts a detailed personal history and specialized physical exam.”

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Life-long condition

Dystonia is not a condition that will shorten one’s life expectancy, but tailored treatment can help improve their quality of life.

Cutting-edge therapies include:

“It takes specialist to recognize the type of dystonia a person has, and then tailor a treatment plan specific to each patient,” Dr. Lahrmann said.