Eye twitching: 8 causes, treatments and prevention

Eye Conditions

By Burt Dubow, OD

What is eye twitching?

Eye twitching — which actually is twitching of an eyelid — is common and harmless.

Most eye twitching lasts only a few minutes, but sometimes an eyelid twitch can persist for days or longer. If you have an eye twitch that doesn’t go away relatively quickly, see an optician.

The medical term for eye twitching is myokymia.

If you experience eye twitching that doesn’t go away, this could signal a serious neurological condition affecting the eyelid — such as blepharospasm or hemifacial spasm. These relatively rare conditions are more obvious and severe than common eye twitching and should be evaluated immediately by an optician.

What causes eye twitching?

Triggers of eye twitching include:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Eye strain
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Dry eyes
  • Nutrition problems
  • Allergies

If you often experience eye twitching, take a close look at this list and note which of these potential triggers might apply to you. Sometimes, making minor changes to your diet and lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of eye twitching or help make an eyelid twitch disappear.

Causes of an eye twitching

1. Stress

Stress is probably the most common cause of eye twitching. Yoga, breathing exercises, spending time with friends or pets and getting more down time into your daily routine are ways to reduce stress that may be causing your eyelid twitch.

2. Fatigue

Lack of sleep, whether because of stress or some other reason, can trigger eye twitching. Catching up on your sleep and having a consistent sleep schedule can help.

3. Eye strain

Eye strain — particularly digital eye strain from overuse of computers, tablets and smartphones — also is a common cause of eyelid twitching.

Follow the “20-20-20 rule” when using digital devices: Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and allow your eyes to focus on a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for 20 seconds or longer. This reduces fatigue that may trigger eye twitching.

Also, ask your optician about computer glasses to relieve digital eye strain.

4. Caffeine

Too much caffeine can trigger eye twitching. Try cutting back on coffee, tea and soft drinks (or switch to decaffeinated versions) for a week or two and see if your eye twitching disappears.

5. Alcohol

If you experience eye twitching after drinking beer, wine or spirits, try abstaining for a while, since alcohol consumption may cause eyelids to twitch.

SEE RELATED: How alcohol affects your vision .

6. Dry eyes

Many adults experience dry eyes, especially after age 50. Dry eyes are also very common among people who use computers, take certain medications (especially antihistamines and some antidepressants), wear contact lenses and consume caffeine and/or alcohol.

If you have a twitching eyelid and your eyes feel gritty or dry, see your optician for a dry eye evaluation. Restoring moisture to the surface of your eye may stop the eye twitching and decrease the risk of twitching in the future.

7. Poor nutrition

Some reports suggest a lack of certain nutritional elements, such as magnesium, can trigger eyelid spasms. Although these reports are not conclusive, this may be another possible cause of eye twitching.

If you are concerned that your diet may not be supplying all the nutrients you need for healthy vision, discuss this with your optician before purchasing over-the-counter nutritional supplements.

8. Allergies

People with eye allergies can have itching, swelling and watery eyes. Rubbing your eyes because of allergy symptoms releases histamine into your eyelid tissues and tear film, which may cause eye twitching.

Sometimes, over-the-counter eye drops formulated to reduce allergy symptoms can be helpful. But antihistamines in these drops can cause dry eyes. It’s best to consult your optician to make sure you’re doing the right thing for your eyes if you experience allergy symptoms and eye twitching.

Another way to stop eye twitching: Botox

In rare cases, some eye twitching just won’t go away, despite applying the remedies above.

Persistent eyelid twitches can be treated with Botox injections to stop the involuntary muscle contractions in the eyelid that cause the twitching.

When to see an optician

See an optician immediately if you experience persistent eye twitching, sudden changes in appearance or movement of half your face (including your eyelids), or if both eyelids clamp down so tight it’s impossible to open your eyes. These can be signs of a serious condition.

Page updated March 2019

Find an optician near you and schedule an exam.

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Here’s Why Your Eye Is Twitching—and How to Make It Go Away

RELATED: 11 Triggers of Dry Eye, and What to Do About Them

How to stop eye twitching

Lifestyle changes can often remedy an eye twitch, but it’s helpful to pinpoint the exact cause. If you suspect that stress or fatigue is to blame, make sure you get plenty of shut-eye, practice good sleep hygiene, and try relaxation techniques (such as meditation or yoga). Limiting your consumption of caffeine and alcohol (or abstaining completely) could also make a difference. If the twitch is related to dry eye, over-the-counter artificial tears may help ease symptoms.

Dr. Suh also stresses the importance of limiting the amount of time you spend looking at electronic screens. He recommends giving your eyes a rest every 10 minutes. To relax the eye muscles, close your eyes briefly, then look at a distant object. You should take similar breaks when reading books, or any time you’re focusing your eyes intensely.

“This would just take 10 to 15 seconds, so having no time is not a good excuse,” says Dr. Suh.

Everything you need to know about eyelid twitch

The most common forms of chronic eyelid twitch are benign essential blepharospasm and hemifacial spasm.

Benign essential blepharospasm is a rare neurological disorder that causes spasms and muscle contractions around the eyes.

It may initially appear similar to a basic eyelid twitch, but it can deteriorate if left untreated. In some cases, the spasms become severe enough to squeeze the eyelids shut for hours at a time.

Researchers are still unsure as to the causes of essential blepharospasm. Most believe that it is a combination of both environmental and genetic factors.

A common theory is that these factors cause the brain’s basal ganglia to malfunction. The basal ganglia are involved in regulating motor function, and they play a significant role in inhibiting erratic movements.

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, essential blepharospasm has several early symptoms that can help to distinguish it from a basic twitch:

  • both eyes are involved
  • the individual blinks frequently
  • other muscles in the face experience spasms
  • the eyes become irritated in bright light and stressful situations
  • spasms usually last for an hour

Hemifacial spasm may initially be confused for a simple eye twitch as the condition usually begins by affecting the muscles surrounding the eye.

However, these spasms will eventually spread to other muscles on the same side of the face, causing the jaw, mouth, cheek, and neck muscles to contract spontaneously.

Hemifacial spasm is also a rare condition, but it is not caused by malfunction of any deep-brain structures. Instead, researchers believe that hemifacial spasm is caused by irritation of the facial nerve. This irritation could happen if a neighboring blood vessel puts too much pressure on the nerve.

Some other differences that might be useful in telling hemifacial spasm apart from blepharospasm and basic eye twitch are:

  • the condition will usually affect one eye
  • a person may experience facial muscle weakness between contractions
  • hemifacial spasms tend to be consistent in intensity
  • some people will hear a clicking sound in the ear on the affected side of the head
  • hemifacial spasms can last anywhere from several days to a few months

Other conditions

Share on PinterestAn eyelid twitch may occur if the eyelid is inflamed.

Other motor disorders that share characteristics with benign blepharospasm and hemifacial spasm include:

  • Bell’s Palsy: This disorder causes temporary paralysis on one side of the face due to inflammation or trauma of the facial nerves. Most scientists believe it to be brought on by a viral infection.
  • Meige Syndrome: This is a rare neurological disorder that involves simultaneous spasms in the cheeks, mouth, tongue, and neck.
  • Tardive dyskinesia: This is a movement disorder characterized by involuntary writhing of the tongue, mouth, or lips, as well as increased blink rate. Most cases develop as a side effect of long-term antipsychotic medication use.

People with neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, may also experience eyelid spasms. However, a person affected by one of these disorders would also experience many other telling symptoms, such as cognitive difficulties, tremors, or difficulty moving around.

Tourette syndrome may also involve a more repetitive, patterned eyelid twitch that will likely be accompanied by at least one other motor or vocal tic.

In some cases, an eyelid twitch is caused by physical injury or irritation to the eye itself, rather than nerve irritation or neurological dysfunction. Some typical examples are:

  • scratched cornea
  • ingrown eyelash, or trichiasis
  • inflamed eyelid, or blepharitis
  • inward-folded eyelid, or entropion

Eye twitching (eyelid twitch): Causes and treatments

Conditions

By Burt Dubow, OD

Why is my eye twitching?

Eye twitching — which actually is twitching of an eyelid — is common and usually harmless.

Most eye twitching lasts only a few minutes, but sometimes an eyelid twitch can persist for days or longer. When your eyelid is twitching, you might think everyone else can see it. But most eye twitches are subtle and are not easily seen by others.

The medical term for eye twitching is myokymia.

If you experience eye twitching that doesn’t go away, this could signal a serious neurological condition affecting the eyelid — such as

or . These relatively rare conditions are more obvious and severe than common eye twitching and should be evaluated immediately by an eye doctor. Source: All About Vision

Triggers of eye twitching include:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Eye strain
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Dry eyes
  • Nutrition problems
  • Allergies

Botox to stop eye twitching

In rare cases, some eye twitching just won’t go away, despite applying the remedies above.

Persistent eyelids twitches can be treated with Botox injections to stop the involuntary muscle contractions in the eyelid that cause the twitching.

When to see an eye doctor

See an eye doctor immediately if you experience persistent eye twitching, sudden changes in appearance or movement of half your face (including your eyelids), or if both eyelids clamp down so tight it’s impossible to open your eyes. These can be signs of a serious condition.

READ NEXT: 7 times to see an eye doctor ASAP

Page updated March 2019

Schedule an exam.

Find an eye doctor near you.

How Is It Treated?

In most cases, a minor twitch will go away on its own. Make sure you get enough rest and cut back on alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.

If dry eyes or irritated eyes are the cause, try over-the-counter artificial tears. That can often ease a minor twitch.

So far, doctors haven’t found a cure for benign essential blepharospasm. But several treatment options can make it less severe.

The most widely used treatment is botulinum toxin (Botox, Dysport, Xeomin). It’s also often used with a hemifacial spasm.

A doctor will inject small amounts into your eye muscles to ease the spasms. The effect lasts a few months before it slowly wears off. You’ll need repeat treatments.

In mild cases, your doctor might suggest medications like:

  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Trihexyphenidyl hydrochloride (Artane, Trihexane, Tritane)

These usually provide only short-term relief.

Alternative treatments include:

  • Biofeedback
  • Acupuncture
  • Hypnosis
  • Chiropractic
  • Nutrition therapy
  • Tinted glasses

Scientific studies haven’t proven these treatments work.

If other options fail, your doctor may suggest surgery. In a procedure called a myectomy, your surgeon will remove some of the muscles and nerves around your eyelid.

Surgery can also relieve the pressure of the artery on your facial nerve that causes a hemifacial spasm. The results are permanent, but as with any operation there’s a chance for complications.

There’s nothing worse than trying to focus during the day with a pesky eye twitch that won’t stop flickering. You know what we mean — that repetitive, involuntary spasm of your eyelid muscle that occurs every few seconds for a minute or two.

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An eye twitch can be unpredictable. It may last for several days or even longer. It may occur off and on for several days. Then you may not experience any twitching for weeks or even months.

An eye twitch doesn’t hurt, but it sure is annoying. But could it be a sign of a more serious problem?

More annoying than harmful

Eye twitches are common and usually, they aren’t anything to worry about, says oculofacial plastic surgeon, Julian D. Perry, MD. Most of the time, an eye spasm will resolve on its own without any need for medical treatment.

“Many patients worry this may represent a neurologic problem. They worry that something serious is going on, but that’s rarely the case,” Dr. Perry says.

“Several things can cause one or both eyes to twitch and they can last for days to weeks, which can be very frustrating,” he says. “But these types of twitches are rarely a sign of a serious problem.”

Causes for the twitch

The most common culprits behind the dreaded eye twitch, Dr. Perry says, are stress and fatigue.

Other causes of eye twitching include:

  • Eye irritation.
  • Eye strain.
  • Eyes that aren’t straight.
  • Eyes that need glasses.
  • Medication.
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco or caffeine.

To get your eye twitch to calm down, Dr. Perry suggests getting enough rest, cutting back on caffeine and reducing stress as much as possible.

Eye drops also can help, if your eyes need moisture.

When it’s time to see a doctor

If eye twitching seems to be lasting for a long time or is becoming particularly bothersome, Dr. Perry recommends a visit to an eye doctor to make sure nothing more serious going on and to consider treatment options.

If it’s more than a few days and it’s really bothering you, or if you notice any of these four signs, you should seek an evaluation:

  1. Symptoms such as weakness, drooping or double vision.
  2. Your eyes start to look red.
  3. It feels like there’s something in your eye or you’re getting light-sensitive
  4. If your vision is changing.

Eyelid twitching can sometimes be a part of spasm conditions affecting the eyes, such as essential blepharospasm or hemifacial spasm. “These disorders were some of the very first indications for Botox® injections, the same medicine that we now use to treat wrinkles,” says Dr. Perry.

Very rarely, eyelid spasms are a symptom of a more serious brain or nerve disorder. In these rare cases, eyelid spasms may be an early warning sign of a chronic movement disorder, especially if the spasms are accompanied by other facial twitches or uncontrollable movements.

“While serious disorders are rare, patients who are finding those benign twitches very annoying can find quick improvement with a few injections,” Dr. Perry says. “So it’s worthwhile to come in for an evaluation if the symptoms are bothersome.”

Eye Twitches: Why do we get them?

Have you ever felt your eyelid spasm for no apparent reason?

Most people have eye twitches (or myokymia) at some point in their life and they’re usually harmless, though very annoying especially when they just won’t seem to go away. It’s usually an eye muscle firing involuntarily because your body is in a stressed and fatigued state.

However, there are a few uncommon yet more serious forms of eye twitches as well.

Triggers

Understanding the underlying cause of the eye twitching is important because the best treatment for the issue is to stop the trigger. Potential causes include:

  • Fatigue: It can be hard in today’s busy world to get a minimum of eight hours of sleep a night, but your body needs that time to repair itself. Catching up on your rest is the first step to eliminating eye twitches.
  • Stress: Our bodies are not designed to be under the stress most of us experience on a daily basis. Taking breaks during the day, deep breathing exercise, and meditation are just a few of the ways to reduce your stress level and keep an eye twitch from firing up.
  • Dry Eyes: An issue that is common as we get older and for those who use a computer all day, dry eyes can be annoying on their own but even more so when they cause an eye twitch. Your eye doctor can recommend eye drops and, if you’re a contact lens wearer, using the right kind of lenses can also help. CooperVision’s Proclear line is designed specifically to help ease discomfort from dryness due to contact lens wear.
  • Use of Alcohol, Tobacco, or Caffeine: Substances that tax the body can contribute to eye twitches as well as a number of other health issues. Cutting back may help considerably.
  • Allergies: Eye allergies release histamines into the eye which can cause the twitching. There are antihistamine drops your eye doctor can recommend.
  • Too much Computer Use: One of the many symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome is eye twitching. This is probably because too much computer use can cause dry eyes, eye strain, and fatigue which are all triggers.
  • Poor Nutrition: A variety of vitamins and minerals are responsible for proper muscle function, and eye twitches can be caused by an imbalance in these nutrients: electrolytes, vitamin B12, vitamin D, or magnesium.

More serious causes

Blepharospasm or hemifacial spasms are more serious yet less common forms of eye twitching. The first affects about 20-50,000 Americans and can be severe enough to prevent the eye from opening for several hours. The latter is very rare, affecting only 8 people in 100,000 in the US, and is caused by an artery pressing on the facial muscle nerve.

In most cases, minor eyelid twitching will go away on its own with a little rest. However, if the twitch lasts for more than a week, completely closes an eyelid, causes a drooping upper eyelid, or is accompanied by redness or swelling, consult your eye doctor.

Nothing in this article is to be construed as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the recommendations of a medical professional. For specific questions, please see your eye care practitioner.

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