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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 diagnosised 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). The medical term for this is Meige’s syndrome.
Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 50 and 70 but it does sometimes affect younger people. It affects around 7,000 adults in the UK.
Treatment usually involves regular injections, using a tiny needle, administered either by neurology or ophthalmology professionals 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 is not currently a cure. However, in the vast majority of cases, dystonia does not impact intelligence or 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.
Click to open the newsletter supplement 1 and newsletter supplement 2 on eye dystonia. For more information, you can call our helpline on 0845 458 6322. To read case studies of individuals with eye dystonia that have been featured in Dystoniamatters! click on the links below:
Last reviewed October 2011
The Dystonia Society provides the information on this page as general information only. It is not intended to provide instruction and you should not rely on this information to determine diagnosis, prognosis or a course of treatment. It should not be used in place of a professional consultation with a doctor.
The Dystonia Society is not responsible for the consequences of your decisions resulting from the use of this information, including, but not limited to, your choosing to seek or not to seek professional medical care, or from choosing or not choosing specific treatment based on the information. You should not disregard the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider because of any information you receive from us. If you have any health care questions, please consult the relevant medical practitioner.