Blepharospasm (Eyelid Spasms)

What is blepharospasm?

Blepharospasm is a condition which causes abnormal blinking or spasms of the eyelids which you cannot control.

What causes blepharospasm?

A part of your brain that controls muscles, called the basal ganglion, functions abnormally in blepharospasm, but for reasons that are not known. Rarely, blepharospasm can be hereditary.

What are the symptoms of blepharospasm?

If you have blepharospasm, it might have started with rapid blinking or eye irritation. In some cases, these symptoms may be accompanied by emotional tension, fatigue, or sensitivity to bright light. Eventually, the symptoms happen more often, and you may also experience spasms in your face. You may find the symptoms to become bad enough that they inhibit your ability to drive a car, go to work, climb stairs, or do other regular activities throughout your day. The symptoms of blepharospasm tend to stop or become less frequent while you are sleeping or when concentrating on a task.

Can blepharospasm be treated?

There is no cure for blepharospasm, but there are medical and surgical therapies that may help reduce your symptoms.

  • Botulinum toxin (Oculinum or Botox). Injections of this medicine into the eyelids can paralyze the muscles and reduce the blinking and spasms associated with blepharospasm. This treatment is also effective for people with facial spasms.
  • Medications. There are several oral medicines available, but they are not universally effective. The benefits do not last long and are only helpful in about 15 percent of patients.
  • Surgery. During a procedure called myectomy, the surgeon removes some of the muscles and nerves in the eyelids responsible for blepharospasm symptoms. Up to 85 percent of patients have reported that this surgery was beneficial.
  • Alternative treatments. While their effectiveness has not been proven, some people with blepharospasm try complementary therapies such as biofeedback, acupuncture, hypnosis, chiropractic, and nutritional counseling.

Source: The National Eye Institute (NEI)