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Botox Helps Relieve Woman's Eye Spasms

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Botox is known for fixing wrinkles, but for a local woman, it ensures her eyesight.

Annie Giacalone, of Wilmington, has essential blepharospasm, a long name for the movement disorder that causes uncontrollable muscle spasms around eyelids.

When a spasm occurred, she had to hold her eyelids open.

"This is one of them right now. See it will not open unless I do this," Giacalone said.

"These patients literally can't open their eyes, and they can even have functional blindness," said Dr. Jonathan Dutton, an ophthalmologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Giacalone travels to Chapel Hill every three months for Botox injections. Dutton conducted the first research on Botox in 1983 and he said the toxin weakens the affected muscles, which gives patients temporary control of their eyelids.

"The toxin works for, on average, three months. Some may get two, some may get four to six months," Dutton said.

Blepharospasm is more common in women usually in their late 50s to 60s, according to Dutton. He also said awareness of the condition is increasing as Botox becomes more popular.

"There's a lot more awareness but there's still many patients who go undiagnosed," Dutton said.

Giacalone said the injections help, but the spasms never completely go away.

"You can lose your life, literally. That's what it would be like to give it up," she said.

Botox takes a couple of days to take effect. Doctors said the most common side effect is drooping of the eyelids, but that reportedly only lasts a few days.


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