Blepharo means “eyelid”. Spasm means “uncontrolled muscle contraction”. The term blepharospasm [‘blef-a-ro-spaz-m] can be applied to any abnormal blinking or eyelid tic or twitch resulting from any cause, ranging from dry eyes to Tourette’s syndrome to tardive dyskinesia. The blepharospasm referred to here is officially called benign essential blepharospasm (BEB) to distinguish it from the less serious secondary blinking disorders. “Benign” indicates the condition is not life threatening and “essential” is a medical term meaning “of unknown cause”. Patients with blepharospasm have normal eyes. The visual disturbance is due solely to the forced closure of the eyelids.
- As the condition progresses, the spasms may intensify, forcing the eyelids to remain closed for long periods of time, and thereby causing substantial visual disturbance or functional blindness
- BEB begins gradually with increased frequency of eye blinking often associated with eye irritation
- BEB occurs in both men and women, although it is especially common in middle-aged and elderly women
- Generally, the spasms occur during the day, disappear in sleep, and reappear after waking
- increasing difficulty in keeping the eyes open, and light sensitivity
- It is a form of dystonia, a movement disorder in which muscle contractions cause sustained eyelid closure, twitching or repetitive movements.
- It is important to note that the blindness is caused solely by the uncontrollable closing of the eyelids and not by a dysfunction of the eyes
- In most cases of BEB the treatment of choice is botulinum toxin injections which relax the muscles and stop the spasms
- Medications (drug therapy)
- Surgery–either local surgery of the eye muscles or deep brain stimulation surgery