What causes blepharospasm, and how is it treated?
Blepharospasm is a severe type of eye twitching characterized by involuntary blinking or tight closure of the eyelids. Unlike common eye twitching, blepharospasm is a relatively rare neurological disorder that sometimes is accompanied by involuntary twitching of other facial muscles. Another medical term for blepharospasm is benign essential blepharospasm.
The root cause of blepharospasm, a form of focal dystonia, is unknown. However, the condition is associated with the basal ganglia structures in the brain, which control motor functions and movement. When the function of these structures is abnormal, blepharospasm can occur.
It is possible for the condition to be inherited, though this is rare. Blepharospasm can also be triggered by a number of factors including:
Lack of sleep
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Vision strain or vision changes
In addition to the involuntary eyelid twitching and spasms, blepharospasm is also often accompanied by fatigue, emotional stress or anxiety, and light sensitivity.
SEE RELATED: What does it mean when your eye twitches?
There are a number of treatment options to help combat blepharospasm, though most provide temporary relief and are not considered a cure for blepharospasm. Treatment options include:
Stress is one of the most common triggers of eye twitching. Fortunately, managing stress can be done anytime, anywhere utilizing techniques such as:
Getting enough sleep
Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake
SEE RELATED: Eye twitching treatment
Medication for blepharospasm such as diazepam (Valium) may be prescribed, but it is not always recommended as a treatment because the success rate varies among patients. In addition, the improvement patients may experience through oral medication is often only on a short-term basis.
Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections can be given to paralyze the eyelid muscles, preventing them from moving involuntarily. However, results are typically temporary.
A procedure called a myectomy can be performed to remove some of the nerves and muscles of the eyelids. This procedure has a relatively high success rate for improving symptoms (about a 75-85% improvement rate), though a myectomy is usually only recommended for very severe cases of blepharospasm.
Regular eye exams
Having your vision checked annually is important in general — especially since an uncorrected change in your vision prescription can trigger eye twitching. Stay up to date with annual comprehensive eye exams and be sure to contact your eye doctor if you notice any sudden changes in your vision that could be causing your eyelid to twitch.
If you experience unexplained eye twitching for several days with no relief, contact your eye doctor for an evaluation as soon as possible.
Page updated January 2021