What Is Eye Twitching?
An eye twitch is an eye muscle or eyelid spasm or movement that you can't control. Eye twitching can be common and is often not a cause for concern. However, there are some conditions that cause eye twitching, including myokymia, the most common cause. It's usually a sign of stress, being tired, or having too much caffeine.
Your eye twitching could also be blepharospasm. This condition begins with increased blinking and can lead to your eyes being squeezed shut.
Eye twitches can also be a sign of a chronic movement disorder like dystonia, which causes muscles to contract automatically.
Types of Eye Twitches
There are a few common kinds of eye twitches:
A minor eyelid twitch is often linked to everyday things like fatigue, stress, or caffeine. You might also have it because the surface of your eye (cornea) or the membranes that line your eyelids (conjunctiva) are irritated.
Eyelid myokymia can involve your upper and lower eyelids, but usually only one eye at a time, and ranges from being almost unnoticeable to troubling. The twitching normally goes away quickly but could be repeated after a few hours or over a few days.
Benign essential blepharospasm usually shows up in mid- to late adulthood and gets worse over time. Only about 2,000 people are diagnosed with it in the U.S. each year. If you were assigned female at birth, you're twice as likely to get it as people assigned male at birth. It's a rare condition, but more severe cases can interfere with your daily life.
It starts with nonstop blinking or eye irritation. As it gets worse, you may be more sensitive to light, get blurry vision, and have facial spasms. The spasms might become so severe that your eyelids stay shut for several hours.
Researchers think eye twitching can come from certain genes or the environment can cause it.
Meige syndrome (Brueghel's syndrome) can develop from benign essential blepharospasm. Symptoms of Meige syndrome include strong spasms of the muscles of the lower face, jaw, and eyes. If you have Meige syndrome, the spasms could be in your tongue and jaw in addition to your eyelid.
A hemifacial spasm is even more rare. It involves the muscles around your mouth and your eyelid. Unlike the other two types, it usually affects only one side of your face. Most often, the cause is an artery pressing on a facial nerve.
Causes of Eye Twitching
Your eyelid might twitch because of an unusual signal in your brain or the muscles of your face. Everyday things that can trigger this include:
- Environmental irritants
- Light sensitivity
- Some medications, especially those that treat psychosis, epilepsy, or migraines
It's rare, but some brain and nervous system disorders can also cause eyelid twitching. These include:
- Parkinson's disease
- Brain damage
- Multiple sclerosis
- Bell's palsy
- Tourette's syndrome
- Spasmodic torticollis
If you have certain eye conditions, they may cause twitching or an increase in twitching:
- Eye strain
- Eye irritation
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
- Dry eyes or red eyes
- Blepharitis (swelling of the eyelids)
Eye Twitching Complications
Some people can have eye spasms all day. They might go on for days, weeks, or months. They could distract you and affect your quality of life.
If your twitch doesn't go away, you may wink or squint all the time and have trouble seeing.
Talk to your doctor if:
- Your eye keeps twitching or the twitch lasts more than 1 week.
- Your eyelid closes completely.
- Spasms involve other facial muscles.
- You have eye redness, swelling, or discharge.
- Your upper eyelid droops.
If your doctor suspects a brain or nerve problem, they'll check for other common signs of the condition. They might refer you to a specialist such as a neurologist.
How to Stop Eye Twitching
Most minor twitches go away on their own. To stop eye twitching immediately, it might help to get plenty of rest, apply a warm compress, and cut back on alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. If dry eyes or irritated eyes are the cause, eye twitching treatment options might include over-the-counter artificial tears.
There's no cure for benign essential blepharospasm. But your doctor can help ease your symptoms. The most common treatment is botulinum toxin (Botox, Dysport, Xeomin). It also treats hemifacial spasms.
Your doctor will inject small amounts into your eye muscles to ease the spasms. The effect lasts a few months, and it slowly wears off. You'll need more than one treatment.
In mild cases, your doctor might suggest medications like:
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Trihexyphenidyl hydrochloride (Artane, Trihexane, Tritane)
These usually offer short-term relief.
Alternative treatments include:
- Biofeedback therapy
- Chiropractic care
- Nutrition therapy
- Rose tinted glasses, or FL-41, for light sensitivity
Scientific studies haven't proved that these treatments work.
In some cases, your doctor may suggest surgery. In a procedure called a myectomy, they take out 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 of complications.
Eye Twitching Outlook
Your outlook depends on what kind of twitching you have and what's causing it. Minor twitches are painless and harmless. They usually go away on their own. Blepharospasm is a lifelong condition, but you might notice that you can prevent symptom flare-ups by avoiding certain things like fatigue or caffeine.