Although it's an annoying eye problem, it's common to experience an eye twitch once in a while. This symptom stems from an involuntary muscle spasm in the upper or lower eyelid.
Most often, these eyelid spasms — or tics — come on suddenly, are harmless and go away after a brief appearance. But if you're worried about this unexpected symptom, here's what you need to know about eyelid twitching.
Why Is My Eye Twitching?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, most eyelid twitches don't impact vision because they cause very little movement in the eyelids.
These common and benign (harmless) eyelid twitches are similar to the type of spasms that occur in other skeletal muscles, as they're involuntary, seem to occur at random and vary in length and frequency.
What Causes Eye Twitching?
- Dry eyes
- Excess caffeine intake
Countering these stressors may help prevent or stop the eye twitch. Keep reading for more ways you can stop your eye from twitching.
Dealing With Eye Twitching
Step 1: Get Plenty of Rest
Your eyelid muscles are more likely to twitch if you're tired. The spasms typically stop when you sleep and stay away when you're well-rested. So take care of yourself and get plenty of sleep.
Additionally, eye fatigue — caused by reading, working on a computer or playing video games for long periods of time — can also cause spasms, so take breaks regularly to rest your eyes. You can use the 20-20-20 rule: After 20 minutes of looking at a screen, look about 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds.
Step 2: Reduce Stress
Stress may also trigger eye twitching. Make changes to reduce the stress in your life, if possible. Counter stress by taking a walk, listening to music, engaging in hobbies and spending time with friends. Do things you enjoy, and practice relaxation techniques to keep calm when stressful situations arise.
Deep-breathing exercises often help. When you feel your eye start to twitch, take slow, mindful breaths. Inhale through your nose for a count of five, and then exhale through your nose for a count of five. Continue for at least a minute. Your eye may not stop twitching right away, but it should help you feel calmer, which will also help your eye twitch go away.
Step 3: Cut the Caffeine
Because caffeine is a stimulant it can also contribute to eye twitching, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Limit or avoid beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks and foods like chocolate. Also avoid over-the-counter (OTC) medications that contain caffeine (Anacin, Excedrin and Midol are three common ones).
Step 4: Moisturize
Sometimes dry eyes are the underlying reason for the eye twitching, and OTC saline eye drops may help ease these symptoms and relieve the twitch. If you have ongoing symptoms of dry eyes, talk with your eye doctor.
Potential Underlying Eye Conditions
Most cases of benign eye twitches resolve within a few days. However, there are some nervous system disorders that less commonly cause eyelid spasms. If you think you may have either of these conditions or your eye twitching doesn't go away on its own, talk to your doctor.
Blepharospasm affects the muscles around the eye, causing involuntary blinking and closing of the eyes. These spasms, which can worsen from fatigue, bright lights or anxiety, may last only briefly and often improve with rest and sleep.
However, symptoms can persist in severe cases, causing the eyes to stay shut and affecting the other muscles in the face. As a result, this condition can significantly impact daily activities. Usual treatment involves injections of botulinum toxin into the eyelid muscles and sometimes anti-anxiety medications or surgery.
A hemifacial spasm causes the muscles on one side of the face to twitch. This disorder, which is caused by a malfunction of the seventh cranial nerve, leads to involuntary and painless spasms which can be so frequent they can close the eye and impact muscles in the mouth, cheek and neck.
Severe cases of this spasm can last for several days to a few months. The most common treatment is to have the botulinum toxin injected into the affected muscle, although drugs and surgery may also be useful.
When to See a Doctor
See a doctor if you have eye twitching that lasts more than a week or if your symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your vision. Also seek medical attention if you have fluid leaking from your eye, if you experience redness or swelling of one or both eyes or if you have twitching or spasms in other parts of your face. These can either be signs of an infection or an underlying nerve or muscle condition.
What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever had an eye twitch? How long did it last? Did it go away on its own? What did you do to lessen the symptoms? Did any of the above tips help? Are there any others you would add? Share your thoughts, suggestions and questions in the comments below!
- American Academy of Ophthalmology: How to Stop Eye Twitching
- Merck Manual: Blepharospasm
- Journal of Neuro-Opthalmology: Chronic Myokymia Limited to the Eyelid Is a Benign Condition
- American Academy of Opthalmology: What Is an Eyelid Spasm or Twitching Eyelid?
- Review of Ophthalmology: How to Diagnose and Relieve Periocular Spasm
- Neurology International: Another Perspective on Fasciculations: When is it not Caused by the Classic form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Progressive Spinal Atrophy?
- Merck Manual: Hemifacial Spasm