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What is blepharospasm/craniofacial dystonia?

Blepharospasm is characterized by excessive eye blinking, with 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. When both the eyes and mouth are affected, the diagnosis is craniofacial dystonia, sometimes called Meige syndrome. A related but relatively uncommon problem is oromandibular dystonia, when only the lower face, jaw, and tongue are involved.

Who gets blepharospasm/craniofacial dystonia?

People of all ages and all races all over the world get blepharospasm and craniofacial dystonia. 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 are affected, but it is more common in women.

What causes blepharospasm/craniofacial dystonia?

In most cases, the cause of blepharospasm and craniofacial dystonia is unknown.

How is blepharospasm/craniofacial dystonia diagnosed?

The diagnosis of blepharospasm and craniofacial dystonia 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/craniofacial dystonia?

The most useful treatments for blepharospasm and craniofacial dystonia 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/craniofacial dystonia?

The reasons why some people get blepharospasm and craniofacial dystonia 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.

Blepharospasm and craniofacial dystonia 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.

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

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.