Blepharospasm is a type of Dystonia that affects the eyes. These spasms are often rather painful and can involve the eyelids as well as the muscles behind and around the eyes. As with all types of Dystonia people experience different types of spasms, some people have increased sensitivity to light and rapid blinking, whilst others find their eyes spasm shut, and in some cases the muscles behind the eyes pull the eyes up into the head making the person functionally blind. I experience several of these spasms and find that the sensitivity to light often triggers the other spasms.
Generally speaking symptoms usually appear in people around the ages of 50 to 70. However it does affect younger people, Blepharospasm can appear on its own or in conjunction with or part of other Dystonias such as Meige Syndrome or Generalized Dystonia. Blepharospasm is thought to affect around 7,000 adults in the UK.
There is currently no known cure for Dystonia. Treatment for Blepharospasm normally involves regular Botox injections. I find that six weekly injections around my eyes helps with symptoms such as spasming shut and rapid blinking, but the muscles behind the eyes cannot be injected. By wearing dark sunglasses in the sunlight or in brightly lit area, I can reduce the chances of going blind but it still happens. The longest this has ever happened for is 15 hours. Some people find that pressure points around the temples, and nose area can help relieve the spasms. Obviously these pressure points differ from person to person.
In the picture below you can see my eyes pulled back in a spasm leaving me functionally blind.
The Dystonia Society’s website has some great tips on how to cope with the condition so head on over to it to find out more http://www.dystonia.org.uk/index.php/about-dystonia/types-of-dystonia/eye-dystonia-
Every day I have plenty of spasms. Some are short and not to bad, others last hours and cause agony, and some simply make me laugh due to the positions I find myself in, for example I once ended up doing the splits! Thankfully the muscle relaxant that my GP put me on has helped and has slightly reduced the frequency and intensity of these spasms.
Earlier this afternoon my whole body decided to spasm, it was slightly painful and was not the most comfortable position to be in, but despite that I managed to laugh through it with my mum. Knowing that the spasm would eventually release was a big comfort and made it more bearable. I have included some pictures of the spasm below, in them you can see that my eyes, neck, arms, stomach and leg are all in spasm.
In today’s culture people often seem to want to focus on what we cannot do rather than celebrate what we are able to do. Even the term Disabled focuses on it. I don’t like being labelled but if I have to be then I would rather be termed as Differently Able, as I am capable of doing the same things as any body else, it might just take me longer, I may even do it slightly differently but at the end of the day I can still do it!
One of my symptoms causes me to go blind. My eyes go into spasm and my eyeballs roll upwards in their sockets. Being blind on and off has taught me to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me in daily life. I previously took my sight for granted, the day I went blind for the first time terrified me, I was having a big panic that I would not be able to read again. Now when I am able to read I appreciate the ability more than ever before. Control of our bodies and good health is such a precious but fragile gift that people tend to abuse. We need to open our eyes to the world and learn to appreciate what we have. Society needs to understand the gifts that senses such as sight brings us and learn to focus on the positive side of things.
I could easily allow myself to drown in a pool of negativity but by focusing on the little things in life like being able to see, and by pushing myself to achieve what ever I set my mind to, I am able lead a positive life. I have my moments of being down, just like everyone does but I wont ever let having Dystonia beat me.
I am happy to announce that over the Christmas period my Dystonia behaved, with the exception of one or two moments. The relief I felt after going Christmas day and my birthday without having my dystonia play up was immense! I had worried a lot about spending the Christmas period in agony, thank fully I ended up worrying for nothing. To make things even better I even managed to spend 6 hours clothes shopping with my family, with only my eyes playing up now and then. I managed to get in and out of my wheelchair frequently so I could try clothes on without my leg making to much of a fuss. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and found it very difficult to move around, but this did not bother me as the fact I managed to spend so long out and about and try clothes on was a major achievement for me!
Yesterday I picked up my glasses from the opticians, this means that I can now start judging whether it is my eyes straining that causes my eyes to spasm and go blind. Every day, I am going to keep a diary of what activities I have done and how my eyes have reacted to each activity, this will enable me to have a fairly accurate idea (after a number of weeks) as to whether my theory to why I go blind is right or not. I am quiet excited, as if I am right and wearing glasses helps stop the spasms, this will make a significant impact on my life.
My jaw dystonia is really playing up at the moment, which in turn brings on my Non Epileptic Seizures. Despite my consultant emailing me 3 weeks ago saying he would do my Botox injections next week, I have still not received a date for it to be done. When I finally get to see him and have the injections done, I am going to ask him if there is anyway we can just book a date in advance, for around the time the injections stop working, to have treatment again. To me this is a logical step to make, however it is becoming more and more apparent to me that the NHS system is not necessarily a logical one.
I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and that you all have a great new year.
Today is one of those days where I find myself thinking about everything. The other day I had to inform my university that I would not be able to return to my midwifery training because of my Dystonia. I still have to speak to them a bit more about it in the next few days. Yet sitting here right now, my body is completely behaving, I feel normal. I feel like I am able to just get up and walk about and do what ever I want. Part of me even dares to say you’re fine. However I know I am not fine, yesterday evening I went blind three times, my jaw was in spasm and my body was very jerky. I know that the reality is that I am not fine or ‘normal’, but my body at this very moment in time feels like I am.
A large part of me wants to just get up and walk about and see what happens, I know that there is a huge chance that my right leg shall immediately play up and I will end up on the floor, but then again if I don’t try these sort of things out, how will I ever know what I can and cannot do, or what progress I may have made.
My consultant, when I first met him, gave me the impression he was wonderful and would fix me. The reality of it has finally sunk in, unless you’re sitting in front of a consultant or doctor the chances are that unless you fight them they will do bugger all for you. The way I see it right now is that I have two choices, I could spend my days feeling sorry for myself and waiting until October/ November next year to get treatment or I could start pushing my body a little bit further everyday and start trying to retrain my brain myself.
Over the last few weeks I have tried to push myself, so far it has been successful 98% of the time. I can now use my right hand to hold a spoon, I can stand with my right foot flat for about a minute or two which is a huge step. I am making what I think are huge positive step forwards and that is without the help of doctors or consultants, the people who should be helping me! I have also noticed that I tend to go blind when I feel like my eyes are straining, the obvious solution to this in my mind, is to go to the options and get some new glasses, so my eyes don’t have to strain so much, after all there is no harm in trying and it may stop the blindness.
What irritates me the most is that I am having to struggle through this and try to figure out how to beat Dystonia with very little help from the medical profession. They are the people who should be giving me ideas of how to help myself, or new things to try etc, yet their not doing any of this, I am lucky if they even return my calls or emails. The care the NHS provides shocks me constantly, I feel completely abandoned by them. However I will not settle for this level of care. I plan on doing my best to bringing attention to the failings of the NHS system.