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. 2013 May 3;3:tre-03-131-3076-1.
doi: 10.7916/D8QN65GQ. Print 2013.

The Environmental Epidemiology of Primary Dystonia

Free PMC article

The Environmental Epidemiology of Primary Dystonia

Giovanni Defazio et al. Tremor Other Hyperkinet Mov (N Y). .
Free PMC article


Background: Dystonia is a movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that cause twisting movements and abnormal postures. Primary dystonia is the most common form and is thought to be a multifactorial condition in which one or more genes combine with environmental factors to reach disease.

Methods: We reviewed controlled studies on possible environmental risk factors for primary early- and late-onset dystonia.

Results: Environmental factors associated with primary early-onset dystonia are poorly understood. Early childhood illnesses have been reported to be more frequent in patients with DYT1 dystonia than in subjects carrying the DYT1 mutation that did not manifest dystonia, thus raising the possibility that such exposures precipitate dystonia among DYT1 carriers. Conversely, several environmental factors have been associated with primary adult-onset focal dystonias compared to control subjects. Namely, eye diseases, sore throat, idiopathic scoliosis, and repetitive upper limb motor action seem to be associated with blepharospasm (BSP), laryngeal dystonia (LD), cervical dystonia (CD), and upper limb dystonia, respectively. In addition, an inverse association between coffee drinking and BSP has been observed in both case-unrelated control and family-based case-control studies. Additional evidence supporting a causal link with different forms of primary late-onset dystonia is only available for diseases of the anterior segment of the eye, writing activity, and coffee intake.

Conclusion: There is reasonable epidemiological evidence that some environmental factors are risk-modifying factors for specific forms of primary adult-onset focal dystonia.

Keywords: Primary dystonia; environmental risk factors.

Conflict of interest statement

Financial disclosures: Dr G. Defazio received funds from the Italian Ministry of University for a research project on dystonia. Dr A.F. Gigante reports no disclosure.

Conflict of Interests: The authors report no conflict of interest.

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