The cause of dystonia is not fully understood. There appears to be a problem with the region of the brain called the basal ganglia. In most cases where dystonia appears in adults and some cases where it appears in children, there is no clear explanation for why this problem arises.

However, in a minority of cases, the dystonia does have a clear cause. These are:

Another medical condition

Where dystonias appear in children, in more than 80% of cases the dystonia will be secondary to another condition. In the majority of cases, this will be cerebral palsy.

Some dystonias appearing in adults may be caused by stroke or tumour.


Some dystonias, called Tardive, are caused by certain drugs (especially dopamine blocking drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders).


Some cases of generalised primary dystonia may be inherited. Click here for more info.

Further reading



The Dystonia Society provides the information on this page as general information only. It is not intended to provide instruction and you should not rely on this information to determine diagnosis, prognosis or a course of treatment. It should not be used in place of a professional consultation with a doctor.

The Dystonia Society is not responsible for the consequences of your decisions resulting from the use of this information, including, but not limited to, your choosing to seek or not to seek professional medical care, or from choosing or not choosing specific treatment based on the information. You should not disregard the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider because of any information you receive from us. If you have any health care questions, please consult the relevant medical practitioner.