Dystonia is a neurological disorder than can affect people of any age, though infants are especially susceptible due to genetic factors and the risk of birth injuries. Infant dystonia disorder causes involuntary muscle contractions, and the arms and legs of children with dystonia will often move erratically, repetitiously, and into awkward positions out of their control.
Though the research is not conclusive, most experts believe that infant dystonia is caused by damage or malformation of the basal ganglia in the brain. The basal ganglia is the region of the brain that controls movement and muscle contractions, and when it is not working properly, and infant loses the ability to control and stop the movement of their body.
Infant dystonia is typically divided into two categories depending on its cause. Acquired dystonia is caused by injuries, trauma, and infections, and typically only affects a localized region of the body. Primary and idiopathic dystonia is caused by genetic factors, and this dystonia may affect all parts of an infant’s body.
Acquired Infant Dystonia Disorder Causes
There are many different types of causes for acquired dystonia. An infant or young child can acquire dystonia from injuries at home or outside, but typically these injuries occur before or during birth when the baby is most vulnerable.
One of the leading infant dystonia disorder causes is hypoxia during delivery. Hypoxia occurs when the baby is deprived of oxygen to their brain, causing cell death and brain damage. There are many different delivery complications that can result in hypoxia. During delivery, the child’s head may become compressed by the birth canal or the umbilical cord may be pinched, this can affect the flow of oxygen to the baby’s brain. If the baby is born premature, his lungs may not be fully developed and this can also result in hypoxia.
Physical trauma to the brain during delivery can also be the cause of infant dystonia disorder. Delivery is an extremely stressful process on a baby’s body. If a birth is more difficult, due to cephalopelvic disproportion, or longer than normal, the amount of pressure on the baby’s head may reach a dangerous level, and this can result in skull fractures and other injuries that can damage the baby’s brain. Misuse of delivery tools such as forceps and vacuum extraction can also damage the skull and lead to brain damage of the basal ganglia.
A fetus’s brain can also be damaged by brain tumor, fetal stroke, and neonatal hemorrhages. These types of trauma are also possible infant dystonia disorder causes and lead to other serious neurological problems. There are many different factors that can affect the risk of fetal stroke, brain tumor, and hemorrhages. Some of these risk factors include problems with the placenta, bleeding disorders and high blood pressure of the mother, malformation of the brain, and congenital defects. Maternal infections in the uterus have also been shown to increase the risk of dystonia and cause a number of other problems.
Genetic Infant Dystonia Disorder Causes
Scientists believe that idiopathic and primary dystonia have genetic causes. Though the genetic cause of dystonia is not completely understood, dystonia may be linked to a dominant gene that affects development of the brain. It is believed that the gene is dominant and not recessive because a child may inherit dystonia even if only one parent has a family history of dystonia. How dystonia is inherited and why or why not it is expressed in a child is still unknown. A parent may not suffer from dystonia yet still pass it on to a child, and a parent may have several children, but only one with idiopathic/primary dystonia.