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NINDS Benign Essential Blepharospasm Information Page

Synonym(s):   Blepharospasm

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What is Benign Essential Blepharospasm?

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. Other symptoms may include increasing difficulty in keeping the eyes open, and light sensitivity. Generally, the spasms occur during the day, disappear in sleep, and reappear after waking. As the condition progresses, the spasms may intensify, forcing the eyelids to remain closed for long periods of time, and thereby causing substantial visual disturbance or functional blindness. It is important to note that the blindness is caused solely by the uncontrollable closing of the eyelids and not by a dysfunction of the eyes. BEB occurs in both men and women, although it is especially common in middle-aged and elderly women.

Is there any treatment?

In most cases of BEB the treatment of choice is botulinum toxin injections which relax the muscles and stop the spasms. Other treatment options include medications (drug therapy) or surgery--either local surgery of the eye muscles or deep brain stimulation surgery.

What is the 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. The condition may worsen or expand to surrounding muscles; remain the same for many years; and, in rare cases, improve spontaneously.

What research is being done?

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.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Benign Essential Blepharospasm Clinical Trials

Organizations

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Benign Essential Blepharospasm Research Foundation
637 North 7th Street Suite 102
P.O. Box 12468
Beaumont, TX   77726-2468
bebrf@blepharospasm.org
http://www.blepharospasm.org
Tel: 409-832-0788
Fax: 409-832-0890

Dystonia Medical Research Foundation
1 East Wacker Drive
Suite 2810
Chicago, IL   60601-1905
dystonia@dystonia-foundation.org
http://www.dystonia-foundation.org
Tel: 312-755-0198
Fax: 312-803-0138



Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated January 14, 2013