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Blepharospasm and Craniofacial Dystonia

What is blepharospasm?

Blepharospasm is characterized by excessive eye blinking, with occasional spasms of the muscles around the eyes.  Blinking and spasms can be worsened by a number of things, such as bright lights, reading, or stress.  In some cases, muscles around the mouth become affected too, with lip puckering, grimacing, or other lip movements. For most cases, the cause is unknown, but experts believe many come from a combination of inheritance and some exposure.

Who gets blepharospasm?

People of all ages and all races all over the world get blepharospasm.  It most commonly begins in middle age, between 40-65 years old.  In rare cases, it may begin in children or older adults.  People of both sexes get blepharospasm, but it is more common in women. 

What causes blepharospasm?

In most cases, the cause of blepharospasm is unknown. 

How is blepharospasm diagnosed?

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.  

Are there treatments for blepharospasm?

The most useful treatments for blepharospasm involve quieting the overactive muscles by injecting them with a muscle relaxer. The most commonly used medications are the botulinum toxins. Some patients also take pills. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Blepharospasm

Why did I get blepharospasm?

The reasons why some people get blepharospasm are unknown.  In some cases, it may be inherited through a change in genes.  In some others, it may be caused by something that happened to the brain, like exposure to some infection, chemical, or injury.  Experts believe most cases come from a combination of inheritance and some exposure. 

Will my blepharospasm get worse? 

Blepharospasm usually reaches its worst level of severity over a period of weeks or months.  It may continue to worsen over several years, or it may spread to the lower portion of the face.  In rare cases, it may also spread to other portions of the body, such as the neck. 

Will my blepharospasm ever go away?

In a few fortunate people, blepharospasm may go away.  When it does go away, there always is the risk that it may come back. 

Can an allergy cause blepharospasm?

Many people with blepharospasm or craniofacial dystonia are incorrectly diagnosed as having allergic reactions affecting the eyes, or dry eye syndromes.  While allergies and dry eyes may make the problem worse, they are not believed to be the primary cause.