Blepharospasm is a condition of involuntary closure of the eyes, caused by the contraction of the muscles surrounding the eyes.
Normally we blink at a rate of 10 to 20 times per minute (less frequently when reading). In patients with blepharospasm the blink rate is much faster and the tone of the muscles is increased. For some this can develop into an inability to open their eyes, for seconds (or even minutes) at a time, due to the muscles around the eyes clamping the eyelids shut. This can obviously have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, as they are often unable to drive, watch television, read or work.
Most cases of blepharospasm occur spontaneously, and it is not fully understood why. In fact, until the middle of the 20th century blepharospasm was thought to be a psychiatric condition. It is now known to be a neurological (nerve cell) disorder – a problem with the blink reflex control centre. Sometimes it can occur as a result of another medical condition such as trauma, Tourette’s syndrome or as a result of certain medications.
Blepharospasm usually commences between the ages of 50 and 70, although it can occur at any age, and tends to affect women more than men.
Mild cases can often be managed conservatively, with a variety of measures such as using sunglasses (especially rose tinted ones), wearing a baseball cap, use of eye lubricants, and using a back-lit keyboard. However, the most effective treatment for tackling more significant cases is the injection of botulinum toxin, which will provide significant relief for 80% – 90% of affected individuals.
Botulinum toxins (such as Botox®, made by Allergan) block the nerve impulses to muscles, reducing the muscles’ ability to contract. For those suffering from blepharospasm, the procedure involves injecting tiny amounts of Botox® into the muscles around the edge of the eyelids. Treatment typically eases symptoms for up to 12 weeks, at which point the procedure would need to be repeated to maintain its effectiveness. If you would like more general information regarding Botox® this can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
There are some extremely helpful resources available to those affected by blepharospasm, such as at blepharospasm.org and dystonia.org.uk. Whilst treatment with botulinum toxin is available on the NHS, some patients prefer the flexibility and comfort of privately funded treatment. I would be happy to discuss the suitability of treatment with you at a free initial consultation. The standard treatment cost for this procedure at BrightNewMe is £175.
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