What is benign essential blepharospasm (BEB)?

Updated: May 20, 2019
  • Author: Robert H Graham, MD; Chief Editor: Edsel Ing, MD, MPH, FRCSC  more...
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Blepharospasm is a focal cranial dystonia characterized by increased blinking and involuntary eyelid closure. A dystonia is a movement disorder that causes the muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily.

The first record of blepharospasm and lower facial spasm was found in the 16th century in a painting titled De Gaper. At that time, and for several ensuing centuries, patients with such spasms were regarded as being mentally unstable and often were institutionalized in insane asylums. Little progress was made in the diagnosis or treatment of blepharospasm until the early 20th century, when Henry Meige (pronounced "mehzh"), a French neurologist, described a patient with eyelid and midface spasms, spasm facial median, a disorder now known as Meige syndrome. [1] At about the same time, the first medical treatments became available, including alcohol injections into the facial nerve, facial nerve avulsion, neurotomy, and neurectomy. The adverse effects of these treatments, including loss of facial expression and movements, functional and cosmetic deformities of ptosis, and eyelid malposition, were often as bad as the disease.

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