Eye twitching is typically considered an involuntary eyelid contraction. It may occur frequently or sporadically, and it can affect anyone.
Understanding and Treating Persistent Eye Twitching
In addition to being irritation, eye twitches can get in the way of your everyday activities. Do you have a reoccurring eye twitch, or are you worried about a twitch that appears periodically? It is important to understand how, when, and why eye twitching can occur, so that you can evaluate your symptoms and work toward identifying the cause. Your eye twitch could be something simple and harmless, but more severe cases may require you to take action.
General Information About Eye Twitching
You may feel alone in your condition and irritation, but eye twitching is relatively common. Thankfully, in most cases, the twitching does not indicate a more serious problem. An affected person may experience symptoms for a few days or so, but the condition typically goes away on its own. Unfortunately, no one is sure exactly what causes eyelids to twitch, and there are no foolproof or catch-all solutions. Eye twitching is typically thought to be related to stress and fatigue, but there are several other factors that can cause symptoms. In addition, it is important to understand the condition so that you know if it could be something more serious.
The twitching typically only occurs in the bottom lid of one eye, not in both the upper and lower eyelids. It can occur in both eyes, and in every case is an involuntary movement that may occur for several seconds within a minute. In some cases, the eye itself can twitch, but this is much less common. Minor eyelid twitching is usually painless, harmless, and has no direct cause, but there may be several contributing factors that you should consider.
No surprise here: stress can cause eye twitching. If you feel consistently stressed out, your body may react in many different ways, including with small muscle contractions in one of your eyelids. Overworked or stressed eyes can also lead to eyelid twitching, as part of a condition called eye strain. Other causes of eye twitching include:
- Tiredness/fatigue: When your body is overworked and overtired.
- Drinking in excess: This includes both caffeine and alcohol, as too much of either can negatively affect your body systems or even mask underlying fatigue.
- Dry eyes: This condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including tiredness, aging, wearing contact lenses, using computers, and taking certain medications.
- Allergies: Allergy sufferers often experience itchy, swollen, and watery eyes. If the trigger histamines come in contact with the eye, this can cause eye twitching. Antihistamines are often prescribed, but many of these can lead to dry eyes.
- Nutritional deficiencies: Some evidence has shown that nutritional imbalances, such as magnesium deficiencies, can be a cause of eye twitching.
As you can see, many of the symptoms listed above are interconnected, which may help explain why so many people experience eye twitching at some point in their lives. For example, tiredness can cause additional stress, leading to eye strain at work or a dependence on caffeine in conjunction with an imbalanced diet.
Other causes of eye twitching are more manageable or treatable conditions. These include light sensitivity, pinkeye, and blepharitis, which is an inflammation of the eyelids. In these cases, identifying the source of your eye twitch may result in a more readily-available solution.
Reoccurring eye twitching can be considered a condition called blepharospasm, which is different from minor eyelid twitching. It may be triggered by fatigue or stress, but it can also be affected by pollution or genetics. The condition may worsen over time, resulting in blurry vision, light sensitivity, or more severe spasms.
How Long Will An Eye Twitch Last?
Most cases of eye twitching are sporadic, meaning that they come and go. You may experience twitching sporadically for a few days before symptoms disappear, or you could find yourself with a twitch that lasts for weeks. This twitch could occur sporadically throughout each day, or randomly every few days. Attempting to find a cause for your twitch and experimenting with different solutions could help lessen the condition more quickly.
Remedies in Hopes of a Cure
Since eye twitches can have many causes, there are many potential solutions. Unfortunately, there is no direct cure for most cases of eye twitching. Instead, you must try to determine the underlying cause. Here are seven categories of potential remedies for your persistent eye twitch:
1. Combat Stress
The number one way to reduce stress is by increasing sleep, so make an effort to get the amount you need each night. You can also try unwinding with a long bath or massage, or try using warm compresses on your face to relax the muscles around your eyes.
2. Be Smart with Your Computer Usage
Whether you work at a desk job, surf the Internet at night, or often stare at your phone’s screen, you may be increasing your risk for eye strain, dry eyes, and eye twitching. Take frequent breaks and exercise each of your eyes by scanning your entire field of vision or looking at points in the distance. In general, try to work in a well-lit area, which will also enable you to reduce the brightness or your computer or phone screen.
3. Reevaluate Your Vision Correction
If your eyeglass prescription is out of date, you may be overworking your eyes and increasing the amount of vision-related stress they experience. An eye exam will tell you if you need vision correction for the first time or if you need to update your prescription. Depending on where you work or your daily habits, you may want to try bifocals or special eyeglasses designed for heavy computer usage.
4. Treat Dry Eyes
Almost everyone will experience dry eyes at some point, and there are many over-the-counter treatments available for short-term relief. If you regularly experience dry eyes and think they might be contributing to an eye twitch, talk to your optometrist about having a dry eye evaluation. Thankfully, there are many treatments now available for dry eyes, so you and your doctor should be able to easily get the condition under control. If you wear contact lenses, be aware that they can also contribute to dry eyes. Ask your eye doctor about purchasing contacts specifically designed to combat this condition.
5. Talk to Your Doctor
The primary goal of this article is to inform readers about the general causes and treatments for eye twitching. However, you should never hesitate to contact your doctor or optometrist if you have persistent eye twitching or any concerns about its cause or severity. If your eye twitch has lasted for more than a week or the symptoms appear to be worsening, make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam. Your optometrist will try to rule out eye diseases or conditions such as dry eye. He or she will also look for other symptoms such as sensitivity to light or other affected facial muscles. If you experience facial spasms in conjunction with eye twitching, you will be referred to your primary care physician for further evaluation.
6. Medical Intervention
Depending on the severity of your twitch, your doctor may recommend taking a more direct approach to your treatment. There are some medications that can treat eye twitching, and botulinum toxin injections (Botox) could temporarily stop spasms. Surgical options for severe cases include a myectomy, where some of the muscles and nerves of the eyelids are cut or removed to relieve symptoms. If your eye twitching is a symptom of a larger problem, such a neurological disorder or other disease, your doctor will help you determine the next best course of action.
7. Alternative Treatments
Keep in mind that poor prescriptions can cause dry eyes and eye strain, which can contribute to eye twitches. In many cases, eye twitching is not actually related to your vision, meaning that updating your prescription may not solve the problem. If you are interested in alternative medicine, there are numerous treatments worth consiering. Hypnosis may seem far-fetched, but you might want to look into nutrition therapy, acupuncture, or biofeedback. When a twitch occurs, you can also try closing and relaxing your eye while gently massaging the area to relax the muscles.
As a final alternative treatment, picture a gin and tonic. Remove the gin and you just might have a cure for your minor eyelid twitching. Tonic water is beginning to emerge through recent anecdotal stories as a potential way to relieve eye twitching symptoms. This is because tonic water, whether diet or regular, contains quinine, which some studies have linked to offering relief for muscle cramping. Drinking tonic water may serve as a mild, effective muscle relaxant that stops the involuntary spasms associated with eye twitching.
How Dangerous is Eye Twitching?
Thankfully, most cases of eye twitching are annoying but not harmful. Still, eye twitching that won’t go away or worsens could be a sign of a more serious condition. For example, some people experience eye twitching that completely closes their eye or causes severe contractions. This could be a sign of irritation of the cornea (which covers the iris and pupil) or the conjunctiva (the thin membrane that lines the eyelids).
If you experience eye twitching on a regular basis, this could cause a lot of self-consciousness and emotional distress. You may feel uncomfortable speaking with others, for fear that they are focusing on your eye twitch. If your condition begins to alter the way you interact with others, it could interfere with your quality of life. In addition, eye twitching of any severity can affect your ability to concentrate and retain focus.
More serious forms of the condition include chronic twitching, with persistent squinting and winking. If you begin to have difficulty keeping your eyes open, this can cause vision impairment. In general, however, common eye twitching is not dangerous, but the added stress could further contribute to your symptoms unless you take steps to manage your stress levels. As always, you can talk to your doctor for his or her feedback or recommendations.
Could My Eye Twitch Be Something More Serious?
If you have been dealing with an ongoing eye twitching problem for more than a few days, it has likely become more than a simple annoyance. At this point, you probably cannot help worrying that it could indicate something else, such as HIV, multiple sclerosis (MS), or even a brain tumor. Even in more severe cases, frequent eye twitching is more likely to be a side effect of certain medications than a sign of a larger disease. Common medications that can cause eye twitches include prescriptions for the treatment of epilepsy and psychosis, but other medications could contribute to the condition as well.
If your eye twitch is persistent, visit your eye doctor for a thorough exam. If no eye diseases are indicated and your prescription is up to date, your eye doctor will likely exam you for other symptoms. At this point, he or she may refer you to your primary physician for additional assessments or tests. Additional evaluations are especially necessary if, in addition to twitching, you have experienced any of the following symptoms:
- Facial spasms
- Severe eye contractions
- Twitching that lasts over a week
- Drooping eyelids
- Red or swollen eyes
- Eye discharge
- Eyelid involuntarily closing after each twitch
These symptoms could indicate a neurological disorder or be an early warning sign of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In rare cases, an eye twitch could indicate other brain or nerve disorders such as Dystonia, Bell’s palsy, Tourette’s syndrome, or Parkinson’s disease. Your doctor will take into consideration both the frequency and severity of your twitch, as well as any additional or unrelated symptoms you may present.
If your eye twitching seems to worsen after heavy computer use but get better once you have a chance to rest, it is likely nothing serious. In other cases, you may simply need to experiment with your diet or vision correction prescription to see if that helps relieve symptoms. (EWR)