Involuntary spasms of the extraocular muscles can be uni/bilateral. Debilitating if persistent.
Eye dystonia (the medical term is Blepharospasm) is uncontrollable and often painful muscle contractions around the eye. Symptoms of eye dystonia may include excessive blinking and involuntary closure of the eyelids. The cause is believed to be incorrect messages from the brain to the muscles around the eye. Eye dystonia is a neurological movement disorder and should be diagnosed and treated by an ophthalmologist or a neurologist specialising in movement disorders.
Blepharospasm usually starts gradually. First symptoms may include eye irritation, sensitivity to light and increased blinking. The frequency and severity of the muscle spasms generally increases over a period of one to two years. Sometimes eye dystonia is experienced together with mouth, jaw or tongue dystonia (oromandibular). Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 50 and 70 but it does sometimes affect younger people.
Treatment usually involves regular injections, using a tiny needle, administered by an oculoplastics specialist and/or oral medication can also be prescribed. Some people find relief by applying light pressure to particular points on their face; symptoms can also be reduced by wearing dark glasses or wearing a hat with a peak. It is very much an individual experience. Unfortunately there isn’t a cure currently. However, in the vast majority of cases, dystonia does not shorten a person’s life span. Most people do manage to develop successful strategies for living with dystonia combining treatment with pain control and sensory tricks.
Ideas for coping include the following:
- Press fingers against the temples, end of the nose, or other parts of your face – you need to find the spot that suits you.
- Use a tight baseball cap, hair band or sweat band around the forehead.
- Put your head back – close your eyes, or look down.
- Go in a dark place and try to relax.
- Gum chewing, whistling, humming, talking, sucking on a straw or singing sometimes keep the eyes open in order to do activities.
- Reading aloud.
- Looking down (some people find gardening or cooking helpful because they involve looking down).
Can’t cope with bright light?
- Block it out!
- Baseball cap, golf visor, sunglasses (especially the ones with thick sides which also cut out the wind).