Eye Twitching: Causes and Remedies

Eye spasms (or, more accurately eyelid spasms) are common but typically harmless and at one point in our lives we’ll all experience them. Sometimes however, eye twitching can be an indication of more serious trouble ahead. We take a look at the causes and the remedies, and advise on how to eliminate those annoying spasms – in the blink of an eye!

Firstly, let’s define the harmless, yet bothersome, eyelid twitch. Referred to medically as myokymia, it presents itself as a slight tremor of the eyelid muscles. A kind of whispery muscle spasm that happens in one eyelid (or just a portion of the lid, to be precise). It can be a nuisance, but it usually goes away on its own within a few days, if not a few minutes.

Stepping things up a little, let’s consider the more concerning benign essential blepharospasm. This starts out as increased blinking of both eyes and may progress to the eyelids being squeezed shut. This type of eye twitching is relatively uncommon but can be extremely severe, affecting all aspects of life.

And then there’s the unpleasant hemifacial spasm involves twitches of muscles on one side of the face… including the eyelid.

What are the causes (and what are the solutions)?

Eyelid twitching may be triggered by any one of a variety of simple causes. These include:

  • Alcohol intake: so, drink a little less
  • Fatigue and / or lack of sleep: make sure you prioritize sleep
  • Irritation of the eye surface or inner eyelids: eye drops can come in handy to soothe things here
  • Bright light: avoid bright light if you’re regularly affected or, if this is unavoidable, wear high-quality UV-filtering sunglasses
  • Caffeine excess: drink less coffee! Eyelid twitching can be a side effect of too much caffeine (this is our least favorite remedy, but it works!)
  • Smoking: there are many reasons that smoking less, or quitting altogether, can improve your health. We bet you never thought the elimination of eye twitching was one of them!
  • Stress: when you feel overloaded, you produce more epinephrine… this is the fight-or-flight molecule that primes your body for action. This heightened muscle arousal may manifest itself in small contractions or spasms, like the one in your eyelid! Find a way to reduce stress in your life. You owe it to yourself, and you can do it if you try!
  • Wind or air pollution – dry eyes, or eyes with grit and / or pollutants in them are never happy eyes. Here again, eye drops can help eliminate eye twitching.

Interestingly, in some rare cases when people have addressed sleep, stress and other possible issues and the twitch persists, a single treatment of botulinum toxin injections (Botox) can resolve the problem! Why is this? Botox injections temporarily ‘shut off’ the connection between muscles and facial nerves.

What about the other, more serious causes of eye twitching and facial spasms?

Benign essential blepharospasm is a chronic movement disorder of the muscles which causes facial spasms around the eye. No one knows exactly what causes it, but researchers believe it may be caused by a malfunction of certain cells in the nervous system called basal ganglia.

A hemifacial spasm is typically caused by a small artery that irritates a facial nerve.

When to be concerned:

As we’ve already described, eye / eyelid twitching usually goes away on its own within a few days or weeks with rest, stress relief and (sadly) decreased caffeine. However, you should seek specialized medical advice if:

  • the twitching doesn’t disappear within a few days
  • your eyelid completely closes with each twitch or you have difficulty opening the eye
  • twitching happens in other parts of your face or body as well
  • your eye is red or swollen or has discharge
  • your eyelids begin to droop

Remember though, in the vast majority of cases, an eyelid twitch is doing you no harm at all. And, although it may feel that your eyelid is flapping to the extent that it is impossible to go to that meeting without being stared at, the movement is tiny and genuinely unnoticeable.

Largely, the reasons remain a mystery… some studies have shown that taking potassium and magnesium supplements can help, but results are far from conclusive. The best advice is to take our tips above, and only be alarmed if eye twitching persists, or you develop any further symptoms.

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