Definition of Blepharospasm

Blepharospasm – involuntary closure of the eyelid that results from dysfunction of or damage to the nerves that control the muscles of the eyelids. Episodes of closure may range from brief (a minute) to extended (several hours). Extended closure interferes with vision.

Doctors do not know what causes blepharospasm, though it is a symptom of numerous neurologic and neuromuscular disorders that affect muscle control such as Parkinson’s disease and dystonia. Blepharospasm that develops without an apparent underlying disorder is benign essential blepharospasm.

Blepharospasm often begins with minor twitches and tics or squinting, progressing over time to forceful and prolonged contraction of the eyelid muscles. Photophobia (sensitivity to light) is common. Fatigue and caffeine may initiate episodes of spasms.

Blepharospasm Diagnostic path and Treatment

The diagnostic path may include a neurologic examination to determine whether underlying neurologic disorders exist. Blepharospasm requires treatment when it begins to interfere with the activities of everyday life.

Moderate blepharospasm often responds to muscle relaxant medications such as clonazepam (Klonopin) or Lioresal (Baclofen), or to medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease such as levodopa.

Many people obtain long-term relief from injections of botulinum toxin, which temporarily paralyzes the eyelid muscles. Surgery to remove muscle tissue (myectomy) or to cut the nerves supplying the eyelid muscles (neurectomy) may provide relief. Though therapeutic measures can control symptoms, as yet there is no cure.


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