Published on Sep 25, 2019 and last reviewed on Oct 03, 2019 - 4 min read
Blepharospasm is a rare eye condition that results in involuntary eyelid twitch. Read about its symptoms, causes, treatment, and ways to differentiate it from myokymia
Blepharospasm, otherwise called benign essential blepharospasm, is a rare condition affecting the eyelids, which makes the eyelid blink or twitch involuntarily. It is a progressive neurological disorder. The muscle contractions cannot be controlled as it results due to muscle spasms around the eye. There are other minor causes that can make your eyes twitch like myokymia.
This condition rarely runs in families.
It is believed to originate in the motor nerves of the brain, but the exact cause is still not known.
It can be triggered by stress, fatigue, dry eyes, eye strain, and some medications.
The cause of most cases of blepharospasm is not known, but there are many hypotheses that explain the possible causes. Some of the possible causes are:
Dry eyes and light sensitivity - Some patients have these symptoms before developing blepharospasm. But most patients did not have any eye problems previously.
Certain drugs - Medicines used to treat Parkinson’s disease and hormone replacement therapy can induce blepharospasm. It can also be a withdrawal symptom of benzodiazepines.
Abnormal functioning of the basal ganglia of the brain.
It is also associated with conditions like dystonia and multiple sclerosis.
It can also result from a concussion from a head injury.
Eye injury or trauma.
Environmental factors can trigger this condition.
The signs and symptoms include:
Excessive blinking due to spasm of the eye muscles.
Sometimes, the twitches are so strong that it results in eyelid closure for minutes to hours.
Involuntary twitches or contractions of the muscles surrounding the eye.
The symptoms become obvious when the person is tired or upset. Initially, the symptoms may be felt in one eye only, but as it progresses, both the eyes get involved. The symptoms appear only when the patient is awake, and a good night’s sleep helps delay the onset of symptoms the next day.
In advanced cases, the patient experiences severe spasms, making it difficult to open their eyes. Repeated attacks make the person functionally blind, as the patient cannot open the eyes and see even after having normal eyesight.
Most people suffering from blepharospasm also develop symptoms of dystonia in other parts of the body like neck, face, and mouth, eventually.
Blepharospasm is diagnosed clinically by a neurologist or ophthalmologist. There is no specific test to diagnose this condition, and diagnosis is made by ruling out all other causes of eye twitches. After a complete medical and physical examination, the doctor will rule out the following conditions before diagnosing the condition:
Brain injury or tumor.
There is no cure for this condition, but treatment can reduce the symptoms. The treatment options include:
Medicines - Anticholinergics, tranquilizers, and botulinum toxin are used. But, it results in a lot of side effects and is not prescribed commonly. Nowadays, Mosapride is being used in the treatment, which is a safer and economical option.
Botox injection - Injecting Botulinum toxin is the preferred treatment option, as it induces localized paralysis. This injection is administered every 3 months. Most patients respond well to Botox injection and lead an almost normal life. For some, the effectiveness reduces after years of use.
Surgery - If the symptoms are not relieved with the help of medicines or botox, then surgery is done. During surgery, the muscles responsible for closing the eyelid (protractor myectomy) are removed.
Sensorimotor retraining - Series of sensorimotor training techniques include exercises to improve neuroplasticity, which will help the brain heal itself and eliminate dystonic movements.
Sensory trick - A new device is used to apply pressure to the temple region, which helps patients open their eyes.
You can manage the symptoms by:
Wearing protective sunglasses.
Using lubricating eye drops.
Applying hot or cold compression to the eyes and surrounding areas.
Keep using the facial muscles to whistle, sing, and talk.
Eyelid twitches can be due to:
Too much stress.
Side effects of some medicine.
Alcohol or tobacco use.
Everybody experiences eye twitching at some point. But rarely, it can be due to severe underlying condition like:
Bell’s palsy or facial palsy - results in one-sided paralysis of the face.
Dystonia - results in unexpected and involuntary muscle spasms anywhere in the body.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) - it is a disorder that causes cognitive and movement problems and muscle weakness.
Parkinson’s disease - results in involuntary tremors in the limbs, muscle stiffness, and balance problems.
Tourette syndrome - results in involuntary movement and verbal tics.
Blepharospasm is commonly seen in middle-aged women. The exact cause is not known, but genetic, environmental, and other factors seem to play a role. There is no cure for this disease as of now, but to know more ways to relieve symptoms, consult a doctor online.
Dry eyes, light sensitivity, certain medicines, head injury or concussion, and eye injury are believed to be the possible causes of this condition. However, the extract cause is still not known.
As of now, there is no known cure for blepharospasm. The eye twitches can be managed with the help of various medicines and Botox injections. If no other treatment option helps, then the muscle responsible for closing the eyelid is surgically cut.
Eye twitches can last for a few seconds to minutes to weeks. In some cases, the muscle contraction are so strong that it might make the eyelid close the eyes shut.
Lower eyelid twitches are most commonly indicates that your eyes are stressed or strained, you are tired, or consuming a lot of caffeine. But if these twitches do not get better in a week, then it can be a neurological problem.
Some of the known causes of eyebrow twitching are excessive caffeine, eyestrain, magnesium deficiency, some antipsychotic and diuretic medications, allergies, stress, and alcohol abuse. In rare cases, it can be due to underlying conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or Tourette syndrome.
Brain tumor as a cause for eye twitching is uncommon. But eye twitching can be a sign of nervous disorders such as Bell’s palsy, dystonia, multiple sclerosis, Tourette syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
Medicines that can cause this condition include drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease, hormone replacement treatments, antipsychotic drugs, and benzodiazepines withdrawal.
You can consult an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) or a general practitioner for eye twitches. If the cause is non-neurological, then these specialists will help with the management. In case it is an underlying neurological problem, then you might have to consult a neurologist.
If the cause is magnesium deficiency, then eating bananas will indeed relieve eye twitching, as it is a rich source of magnesium. The other sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, beans, avocados, dried fruits, and yogurt.
Consult a doctor immediately, if:
- The twitching does not get better in a couple of weeks.
- Your eyelid closes completely when it twitches.
- You are not able to open your eyes afterward.
- You have twitches in any other part of your body.
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