Blepharospasm 40 years later

Giovanni Defazio, Mark Hallett, Hyder A. Jinnah, Antonella Conte, Alfredo Berardelli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Forty years ago, C.D. Marsden proposed that blepharospasm should be considered a form of adult-onset focal dystonia. In the present paper, we provide a comprehensive overview of the findings regarding blepharospasm reported in the past 40 years. Although prolonged spasms of the orbicularis oculi muscles remain the clinical hallmark of blepharospasm, patients with blepharospasm may be characterized by various types of involuntary activation of periocular muscles. In addition to motor features, blepharospasm patients may also have nonmotor manifestations, including psychiatric, mild cognitive, and sensory disturbances. The various motor and nonmotor symptoms are not present in all patients, suggesting that blepharospasm is phenomenologically a heterogeneous condition. This emphasizes the need for tools for severity assessment that take into account both motor and nonmotor manifestations. The cause of blepharospasm remains elusive, but several lines of evidence indicate that blepharospasm is a multifactorial condition in which one, or several, as yet unknown genes together with epigenetic and environmental factors combine to reach the threshold of the disease. Although blepharospasm was originally believed to be solely a basal ganglia disorder, neurophysiological and neuroimaging evidence point to anatomical and functional involvement of several brain regions. The contribution of multiple areas has led to the hypothesis that blepharospasm should be considered as a network disorder, and this might reflect the varying occurrence of motor and nonmotor manifestations in blepharospasm patients. Despite advances in the aetiology and pathophysiology, treatment remains symptomatic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-509
Number of pages12
JournalMovement Disorders
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2017


  • blepharospasm
  • clinical features
  • dystonia
  • pathophysiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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