|Other names: Benign essential blepharospasm (BEB), eye dystonia, eye twitching, eye spasm|
|Benign fasciculation syndrome of the upper eyelid in a 19-year-old male. It subsided after several days.|
|Diagnostic method||Based on the symptoms|
|Differential diagnosis||Meige syndrome, Bell's palsy, hemifacial spasm|
|Treatment||Botulinum toxin, surgery|
|Frequency||1 in 20,000 people|
Blepharospasm is eyelid movement, such as blinding or twitching, that is not controllable. Often it is gradual in onset and in severe cases may result in closure of the eye. Both eyes are generally affected. It may be short or long-term in duration. It may be associated with twitching of other parts of the face.
The cause in unknown. Risk factors include family history and it is occasionally associated with eye trauma. It may also occur as part of certain conditions such as tardive dyskinesia, Wilson disease, and parkinsonism. Emotional stress, tiredness, or bright lights may worsen the condition. It is a type of focal dystonia. Diagnosis is based on the symptoms.
While there is no cure, botulinum toxin injections may help temporarily. Other measures that may help include getting sufficient sleeping and lowering caffeine use. Surgery to remove the eyelid muscle may occasionally be carried out.
Blepharospasm affected about one in 20,000 people in the United States. Women are more commonly affected than men. The typical age of onset is 40 to 60 years old. The condition has been described since at least the 1870s.
Signs and symptoms
- Excessive blinking and spasming of one or both eyes – characterized by uncontrollable eyelid closure of durations longer than the typical blink reflex. The spells of spasming may last for minutes or even hours
- Uncontrollable contractions or twitches of the eye muscles and surrounding facial area. Some sufferers have twitching symptoms that radiate into the nose, face, cheeks, and sometimes, the neck area
- Dryness of the eyes
- Sensitivity to the sun and bright light
Some causes of blepharospasm have been identified; however, the causes of many cases of blepharospasm remain unknown. Some people with blepharospasm have a history of dry eyes, light sensitivity, and even fatigue. Others report no eye problems before onset of symptoms.
Some drugs can induce blepharospasm, such as those used to treat Parkinson's disease, as well as hormone treatments, including estrogen-replacement therapy for women going through menopause. Blepharospasm can also be a symptom of acute withdrawal from benzodiazepines. Prolonged use of benzodiazepines can induce blepharospasm and is a known risk factor for the development of blepharospasm.
Blepharospasm may also come from abnormal functioning of the brain's basal ganglia. Simultaneous dry eye and dystonias such as Meige's syndrome have been observed. Blepharospasms can be caused by concussions in some rare cases, when a blow to the back of the head damages the basal ganglia.
Drug therapy for blepharospasm has proved generally unpredictable and short-termed. Anticholinergics, tranquillizing drugs and botulinum toxin are the mostly used therapeutic options. However serious side effects can be observed as well as failure of therapy. It is therefore not surprising that new therapies are constantly being tested. In this backdrop new evidence shows Mosapride can be a safe and affordable therapeutic option for blepharospasm.
Botulinum toxin injections have been used to induce localized, partial paralysis. Among most sufferers, botulinum toxin injection is the preferred treatment method. Injections are generally administered every three months, with variations based on patient response and usually give almost immediate relief (though for some it may take more than a week) of symptoms from the muscle spasms. Most patients can resume a relatively normal life with regular botulinum toxin treatments. A minority of sufferers develop minimal or no result from botulinum toxin injections and have to find other treatments. For some, botulinum toxin diminishes in its effectiveness after many years of use. An observed side effect in a minority of patients is ptosis or eyelid droop. Attempts to inject in locations that minimize ptosis can result in diminished ability to control spasms. A recent Cochrane systematic review showed that a single treatment session (where both eyelids were injected with BtA multiple times) alleviated the symptoms of blepharospasm, disability, and number of involuntary movements.
People that do not respond well to medication or botulinum toxin injection are candidates for surgical therapy. The most effective surgical treatment has been protractor myectomy, the removal of muscles responsible for eyelid closure.
Since the root of the problem is neurological, doctors have explored sensorimotor retraining activities to enable the brain to "rewire" itself and eliminate dystonic movements. The work of Joaquin Farias has shown that sensorimotor retraining activities and proprioceptive stimulation can induce neuroplasticity, making it possible for patients to recover substantial function that was lost due to blepharospasm.
The word is from Greek: βλέφαρον / blepharon, eyelid, and σπασμός / spasmos, spasm, an uncontrolled muscle contraction.
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