Patients suffering from the blinking disorder blepharospasm may soon have a new treatment option available to them. Scientists are now working on a small device designed to soothe the patient's painful automatic over-blinking. Best of all, this tiny device can be comfortably worn right on a person's eyeglasses.
Researchers at John Radcliffe Hospital , Oxford, have just started testing a tiny device they call Pressop. Pressop can easily be attached to a patient's glasses and works by applying gentle pressure on the wearer's temples. This pressure can effectively block overactive signals from a blepharospasm patient's brain, which greatly reduces blinking spasms.
Oxford researchers took a group of 58 people with blepharospasm and analyzed the results from using the Pressop device. About half of the patients involved in this study said they experienced partial relief using Pressop, and 10 of the study patients said their symptoms improved immensely.
In addition to helping people with overactive blinking, the Pressop device also had a positive psychological impact on the study participants. Many patients said they experienced a huge boost in self-confidence. Some patients also said they got fewer headaches when using Pressop, and two patients said they were going to stop getting Botox treatment for their blepharospasm symptoms.
Patients with blepharospasm have a disorder with the brain's motor cortex, which controls voluntary muscle movements. In blepharospasm cases, a patient's motor cortex is kicked into overdrive and forces a person blink or shut their eyes uncontrollably.
The most common treatment option for blepharospasm patients now is to have a Botox shot near the eyes. Botox injections help relax the muscles surrounding the eyes, but they can often be quite painful and expensive. It's not uncommon for blepharospasm patients to have over 20 injections every two weeks just to function normally. Also, Botox injections lose their efficacy after every treatment.
The Oxford researchers got the idea for a Pressop device after observing how many blepharospasm patients instinctively touched their temples to get some relief from over-blinking. Alexina Fantato, a key researcher at Oxford Eye Hospital, told reporters, "We had an idea for a device which would attach to spectacles and allow individuals to keep their eyes open when the spasms are severe."
Blepharospasm is not only uncomfortable, it can be downright dangerous. Sometimes a patient can't open their eyes for several minutes when they are having a severe blepharospasm attack. Of course, this can make life extremely challenging, especially when a patient is walking around a bustling city or driving down a busy road.
With all of the success stories coming out of the latest Pressop study, Oxford researchers are looking for a way to make this device commercially available in the U.K. and elsewhere. Ms. Fantato has reportedly contacted doctors at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Trust to help with the commercialization of Pressop.
Pressop devices will most likely cost around £25 if they are released. Patients will be able to pick these devices up at local pharmacies, and they won't need any special prescriptions from ophthalmologists.