Blepharospasm

Definition:
Benign essential blepharospasm (BEB) is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions and spasms of the eyelid muscles. It is a form of dystonia, a movement disorder in which muscle contractions cause sustained eyelid closure, twitching or repetitive movements. BEB begins gradually with increased frequency of eye blinking often associated with eye irritation.

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Benign means the condition is not life threatening. Essential indicates that the cause is unknown, but fatigue, stress, or an irritant are possible contributing factors. Symptoms sometimes last for a few days then disappear without treatment, but in most cases the twitching is chronic and persistent, causing lifelong challenges. The symptoms are often severe enough to result in functional blindness. The person’s eyelids feel like they are clamping shut and will not open without great effort. Patients have normal eyes, but for periods of time are effectively blind due to their inability to open their eyelids.

Although strides have recently been made in early diagnosis, blepharospasm is often initially mis-diagnosed as allergies or “dry eye syndrome“. It is a fairly rare disease, affecting only one in every 20,000 people in the United States.


Symptoms:

*Excessive blinking and spasming of the eyes, usually characterized by uncontrollable eyelid closure of durations longer than the typical blink reflex, sometimes lasting minutes or even hours.
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*Uncontrollable contractions or twitches of the eye muscles and surrounding facial area. Some sufferers have twitching symptoms that radiate into the nose, face and sometimes, the neck area.

*Dryness of the eyes

*Sensitivity to the sun and bright light

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Causes:

Some causes of blepharospasm have been identified; however, the causes of many cases of blepharospasm remain unknown, although some educated guesses are being made. Some blepharospasm patients have a history of dry eyes and/or light sensitivity, but others report no previous eye problems before onset of initial symptoms.

Some drugs can induce blepharospasm, such as those used to treat Parkinson’s disease, as well as sensitivity to hormone treatments, including estrogen-replacement therapy for women going through menopause. Blepharospasm can also be a symptom of acute withdrawal from benzodiazepine dependence. In addition to blepharospasm being a benzodiazepine withdrawal symptom, 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 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.

Blepharospasm often occurs out of the blue for no specific reason. Rarely, it can run in families.

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Diagnosis:
The diagnosis of blepharospasm depends on recognition of its characteristic features by an expert, such as a neurologist or ophthalmologist. There are no medical tests for proving the diagnosis, but some tests may be conducted to rule out other possible problems. These may include tests for allergies or dry eyes or scans of the brain.


Treatment:

*Drug therapy: Drug therapy for blepharospasm has proved generally unpredictable and short-termed. Finding an effective regimen for any patient usually requires trial and error over time. In some cases a dietary supplement of magnesium chloride has been found effective.

*Botulinum toxin injections (Botox is a widely known example) have been used to induce localized, partial paralysis. Among most sufferers, botolinum toxin injection is the preferred treatment method.[3] 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 Botox 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.

*Surgery: Patients 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.

*Dark glasses are often worn because of sunlight sensitivity, as well as to hide the eyes from others.

*Stress management and support groups can help sufferers deal with the disease and prevent social isolation.

Prognosis:

With botulinum toxin treatment most individuals with BEB have substantial relief of symptoms. Although some may experience side effects such as drooping eyelids, blurred or double vision, and eye dryness, these side effects are usually only temporary.

Researches:
The NINDS supports a broad program of research on disorders of the nervous system, including BEB. Much of this research is aimed at increasing understanding of these disorders and finding ways to prevent, treat, and cure them.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blepharospasm
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/blepharospasm/blepharospasm.htm
http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/blepharospasm1.shtml
http://www.nature.com/eye/journal/v18/n3/fig_tab/6700624f1.html
http://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php/File:Botwoman.jpg
http://rarediseasesnetwork.epi.usf.edu/dystonia/patients/learnmore/craniofacial/

http://www.graphicshunt.com/health/images/blepharospasm-608.htm

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