Eye Sight Complications: Blepharospasm

Blepharospasm is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary muscle spasms, also called dystonia, of the eyelid. It is often called “benign essential blepharospasm.” This means that the cause of the condition is unknown and it is not life threatening. Blepharospasm is progressive, meaning that the illness gets worse as time goes on. People who have this condition suffer from impaired vision because the spasms force their eyelids to shut.

Benign essential blepharospasm usually begins with excessive blinking or irritation of the eye. Dry eyes are a common symptom, and doctors have debated as to whether or not dry eyes actually cause this disorder or are simply a symptom. When blepharospasm first appears, it may not occur often. In the initial phase of blepharospasm bright lights and fatigue can trigger a muscles spasm. As the disease progresses, the spasms become more frequent. Normally blepharospasm occurs during the day while the sufferer is awake. Sometimes a goodnights sleep can also stave off attacks for a few hours after waking. Eventually, blepharospasm attacks can last as long as two hours.

Although the actual cause of blepharospasm is currently unknown, there are a few theories. The symptoms of blepharospasm are caused by the basal ganglia, structures located at the base of the brain. They are responsible for controlling coordinated movement and in the cause of blepharospasm, do not function normally. The medical community is unsure what exactly goes wrong with the ganglia, but some have theorized that blepharospasm is caused by malfunctioning messenger chemicals, which carry information between cells. Blepharospasm usually develops spontaneously, so prevention is not possible. It may be genetic and may occur with other types of dystonia. Drugs that treat Parkinson’s disease can cause blepharospasm, but in that case the spasms stop if the patient stops taking the medication.

There is currently no cure for benign essential blepharospasm. However, treatment with Botox is available for some patients. There are also surgical options available that actually remove muscles from the eye area. However, most doctors consider surgery a last resort in blepharospasm treatment. These links are comprised of foundations dedicated to blepharospasm research and support, blepharospasm information, and information about clinical trials for blepharospasm.

Dystonia Medical Research Foundation

Founded in 1976, this organization is dedicated the research of dystonia, which includes conditions such as blepharospasm. The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation facilitates volunteer work, funds research, and provides support for people with dystonia and their families. Their website contains information about dystonia as well as the foundation itself.

The Dystonia Society (UK)

This UK based organization was established in 1983 by a small group of patients with dystonia. Their mission is to provide support and information for dystonia sufferers. They also provide funding for research. Their website provides services for patients as well as information for healthcare professionals.

National Institute of Health, Genetics Home Reference: Blepharospasm

This page provides a discussion of the genes that are related to blepharospasm.

National Eye Institute: Financial Aid for Eye Care

Eye care can be expensive, so the National Eye Institute has provided a list of organizations that can help individuals pay for their care. The list includes organizations that help pay for eye exams and surgery, eyeglasses, prescription drugs, and government programs.

Baylor College of Medicine Blepharospasm Overview

This article from Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Neurology gives a brief overview of blepharospasm. The author also discusses some blepharospasm treatment options.

Healthfinder Blepharospasm Resources

Healthfinder, a service from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides information about healthcare and related organizations. This page provides links to a few organizations devoted to blepharospasm.

Blepharospasm Clinical Trials

This page shows current and completed clinical trials relating to blepharospasm. The site provides information about the results of the completed trials as well as information about participating in trials that are currently recruiting.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders Blepharospasm Page

This page from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders provides information about blepharospasm including an overview, treatment information, and prognosis. This page also provides links to a few organizations committed to blepharospasm and/or dystonia. 

We Move: Worldwide Education and Awareness for Movement Disorders

We Move is an organization dedicated to educating the public about various movement disorders including blepharospasm. They also do research and provide support for patients.

Pub Med Article: Botulinum Toxin A Treatment

This article, available on Pub Med but originally published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, discusses a study about Botox as a treatment for blepharospasm. Background information, study methods, and the results of the study are all covered in the article.

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