What is Blepharospasm?

by Garreth Myers

Blepharospasm is a condition that indicates any abnormal or frequent or forceful blinking. In this condition, there is uncontrolled blinking or eyelid closure in both eyes without any apparent environmental cause. It can sometimes be a normal reaction to bright lights, to eye drops that sting, to foreign bodies that irritate eye, or to dry eyes. It is essentially an uncontrolled muscle contraction of the eyelids. It is normally referred to as benign essential blepharospasm, a neurological movement disorder called focal dystonia. While the exact cause is unknown, stress and fatigue or contact with an irritant are considered to be triggers possible causes.

Blepharospasm is often misdiagnosed as dry eye syndrome. Initially, blepharospasm starts with excessive reflex blinking and worsens with bright lights, fatigue or stress. It affects women more than men, and is more common during middle age.

Symptoms

The symptoms of blepharospasm are excessive blinking often characterized by uncontrollable closure of eyelids longer than regular blink reflexes; this can last for few minutes to long hours. There are twitches or contractions of the eye muscles and the neighboring facial area as well. Other symptoms are dryness of eyes and sensitivity to sun and very bright lights.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of blepharospasm is done based on the information from the affected individual and a neurological examination. As of date, there is no specific test to confirm diagnosis, and in most, the laboratory results are normal.

There is no cure for blepharospasm, and treatment is focused on alleviating symptoms and improving the quality of life of the patient. Massaging and relaxing the cheek muscles can bring immediate relief. In some cases, supplement of magnesium chloride has been found to be effective; however, this is not yet proven.

The most widely used treatment is administering of botulinum toxin or botox injections. It is used to induce partial and localized paralysis. Among patients, this is the most preferred form of treatment. Injections are given every three months and in variations based on how the patient is responding to the drug. In most cases, the relief is immediate and in some it can take up to a week. Most patients are able to continue to normal life with regular botox injections. The side effects of botox could be drooping of eyelids after prolonged use; there could also be reduced effectiveness in the medication.

Surgery is also done to remove the muscles that cause forced closure of eyelids. Dark glasses help patients to protect eyes from light sensitivity. Patients can also join support groups and learn stress management techniques to cope with the condition.

Reference
  1. http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/blepha/blepharospasm.asp

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