Blepharospasm usually starts out as nothing more than a need to blink a lot. Then blinking often becomes uncontrollable, in response to wind, fumes, sunlight, bright lights, noise, stress, or movement of the head. Then there is a problem with dry eye, and finally there are uncontrollable spasms on one side of the face and then both sides of the face. There can be spasms of the eyebrow, spasms in the face, drooping of the eyebrow, and tics of the eyelid. Many people who have this condition give up reading, driving, and watching TV.
Some of the easier treatments for blepharospasm that actually work include:
- Sunglasses. A tint called FL-41 is especially helpful for reducing eye strain caused by bright sunlight. If you cannot find FL-41, get gray-tinted sunglasses.
- Artificial tears. The difference between artificial tears and plain water is that the artificial tears include a surfactant that helps them "stick to" the surface of the eye so they aren't removed by blinking.
- Talking, singing, whistling, humming, or lifting an eyebrown with a finger. Blepharospasm originates in the brain. These activities interrupt the brain centers that cause the spasm.
- Magnet therapy. Magnet headbands sometimes relieve blepharospasm, but you need a pulsating magnet, not a "refrigerator magnet" in a headband.
- Avoiding foods that contain the amino acid tyramine. Some people report that foods that trigger migraine also set off blepharospasm. Typically these are foods that contain the amino acid tyramine, including any kind of spoiled, pickled, smoked, or cured meat, as well as alcoholic beverages, chocolate, most cuts of pork (except, in exception to the rule about cured and smoked food, ham), bacon, sausage, lunch meat, most cheeses (except cream, cottage, and Neufchatel cheeses and ricotta), tofu, teriyaki sauce, miso, broad (fava) beans, sour cream, fish sauce, dried shrimp, avocados, bananas, pineapple, raspberries, red plums, peanuts, coconuts, and Brazil nuts. It may also help to avoid any yeast breads.
- Blood pressure medications. Sometimes spasms around the eye are actually caused by pressure from a blood vessel that squeezes a nerve as it goes into the brain. There is a kind of surgery that can repair this vascular problem, but it is so risky that very few patients attempt it.
Medical marijuana is also used to treat blepharospasm. Doctors in Germany report that marijuana and the marijuana-derived medication Dronabinol (Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol) gives better and longer lasting pain relief than Botox shots. Whether smoking pot will work in any individual case isn't something that scientific research has exact answers for, and it really is not something we can recommend (due to various laws). However, there are many reports of benefits of medical marijuana for blepharospasm.
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