The History of Blepharospasm in Medicine

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In 1857, the Scottish ophthalmologist Sir William MacKenzie published a case report describing a young female patient admitted to the Glasgow Asylum for the Blind with intractable “spasmodic closure of the eyelids so intense that, with the strongest effort of her will, she was unable to open here eyes in the slightest degree.”1 Although he knew little about the underlying pathogenesis, he speculated that the disease might have a psychosomatic component and hypothesized that the condition could be relieved by a sedative. Why not try chloroform? This inhaled anesthetic first synthesized less than a decade earlier was gaining popularity in the nascent field of surgical anesthesia. His results were profound. It took only a few treatments with inhaled chlorofrom to dampen her blink reflex and dramatically improve her symptoms for weeks. “She was,” he observed after treatment, “able to walk without being led and [see] everything around her, a striking contrast to the state of eclipse in which she had been.
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