What is eye twitching?
While it may seem like a normal experience of the eye, eye twitching could become irritating and could be a cause for concern when it persists for a long period of time and with higher frequency. In medical terms, eye twitching is known as blepharospasm, which is defined as an involuntary movement or spasm of the eyelid muscles.
It occurs repeatedly and could cause discomfort, although the discomfort is not accompanied by pain. Eye twitching is normal and harmless. If you are facing this issue, you shouldn't be too worried unless it is causing discomfort that affects your day-to-day activities.
These spasms are normally mild and come across very gently on the eyelid. However, there are some instances where people could experience these spasms rather strongly, which forces them to shut their eyelids completely. In some cases, people may not even notice their eye twitching and may be able to carry on with their tasks normally.
The spasms, also known as the twitching, usually occur in a frequency of a few seconds and could last for a minute or two. No one really knows why it occurs, and its occurrence is highly unpredictable. Eye twitching may occur on and off for several days. Hence, you may not experience any twitching for weeks or even months.
The twitches are painless and harmless, but they may bother you. Most spasms will resolve on their own and do not require any specific treatment. However, in certain cases, eye twitching may be a sign of a movement disorder in the body, especially when accompanied by facial movements or twitches.
Possible Triggers of Eyelid Twitches
Eyelid spasms or twitches could be a result of a cause that may not be easy for the doctors to diagnose. The reason is that eye twitching is rarely considered as a serious problem. Thus, people do not even visit a doctor for this purpose. However, when eyelid twitching occurs along with or results from certain causes, then it could be worsened or may result in other serious health issues. Some of these common causes include:
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Severe irritation in the eyes
- Excessive strain to the eyelids
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Insomnia or inadequate sleep
- Extreme physical exertion
- Side effects of medications
- Excessive consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine
When the involuntary eyelid movements or the spasms become intense, they lead to a condition referred to as “benign essential blepharospasm”, which is the medical term used to indicate this condition. While the exact cause that results in this condition is yet unknown, the following factors are known to worsen the spasms:
- Eyelid swelling or inflammation
- Conditions such as conjunctivitis or pinkeye
- Lack of water in the eyes or dry eyes
- Exposure to irritants or pollutants that trouble the eyes, such as wind, excess light, sun, or pollen
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Sensitivity toward light
- Excess stress
- Excess consumption of alcohol or caffeine products
Benign essential blepharospasm is a condition that is more commonly seen in women than men. As found by various studies, around 50,000 Americans are affected by benign essential blepharospasm from the middle to the late stages of adulthood. In most cases, this condition worsens with time and could result in blurring of vision, high light sensitivity, and symptoms of facial spasms.
Should eyelid twitches be a cause for concern?
Although not very common, eyelid twitches could be a sign of a more serious brain or a nerve disorder. When this occurs, eyelid twitches are accompanied by various other symptoms. Various brain and nervous disorders that could cause eyelid twitches in a person are:
- Bell’s palsy (facial palsy): This is a medical condition wherein one side of the face begins to droop downwards, resulting in uncontrolled muscular spasms.
- Dystonia: It is a condition wherein muscle spasms occur and cause the affected part of the body to twist around.
- Cervical dystonia (spasmodic torticollis): This is a condition where there are neck spasms and the head automatically and uncontrollably twists into unnatural positions.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS): This is a condition affecting the central nervous system of the body, resulting in cognitive abnormalities, as well as issues related to the movements of the body. It also causes intense fatigue in a person.
- Parkinson’s disease: This is a condition normally affecting the elderly. There is trembling and shaking of the hands and legs, stiffness in the muscles, and speech impairment.
- Tourette’s syndrome: A medical condition that triggers uncontrolled movements and verbal tics.
- Undiagnosed corneal scratches: These could also result in severe eyelid twitches. If you are noticing changes in your vision or are suspecting an eye injury, it is important to refer to an optometrist without any delay. Corneal scratches often lead to irreparable and permanent damage to the eyes.
What are the types of eyelid twitching?
Not all eyelid twitches are a cause for concern. Whether your problem needs medical attention or not would depend on the type of eyelid twitching you are suffering from. There are three common types of eyelid twitches, and they are:
1) Minor eyelid twitch: This is a temporary condition, which is usually triggered due to a certain factor. A minor eyelid twitch is often associated with lifestyle factors such as:
- Lack of sleep
- Use of alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine
- Irritation of the surface of your eye (cornea) or the membranes that line your eyelids (conjunctiva)
2) Benign essential blepharospasm: This is a very common condition that affects almost 20,000-50,000 Americans. The spasms are common among the middle-aged and the elderly, and the condition tends to worsen with age. Benign essential blepharospasm is characterized by excessive blinking and is often accompanied by heavy irritation in the eyes. As the disorder worsens, it could also result in other symptoms such as facial disorders or spasms, blurring of eyesight, and photosensitivity or extreme sensitivity to light. In extreme cases, the spasms could also become very severe, which could cause the eyelid to remain shut for many hours at a time.
Blepharospasm is normally the result of a mix of genetic factors and environmental conditions. Various factors, such as fatigue, stress, or pollutants, are known to be the triggers of this condition.
3) Hemifacial spasm: This is one of the least common forms of eyelid twitching and is also considered than the other two forms. The spasms are normally seen on only one side of the face. However, hemifacial spasms would occur in the muscles of both sides of the eyes and the entire mouth region. In most cases, it is the result of an artery pressing a facial nerve.
When should you see a doctor for eyelid twitching?
In most cases, eyelid twitching is a temporary phenomenon and is considered harmless. However, in other cases, it becomes necessary to seek medical advice to get relief from the condition. In very rare cases, it is a symptom of a disorder connected to the central nervous system such as Bell’s palsy, dystonia, Parkinson’s disease, or Tourette’s syndrome. If you have persistent eyelid twitching that is accompanied by various other health conditions as mentioned below, you would need to seek medical advice urgently:
- Eyes turning red, inflamed, or having an abnormal eye discharge
- Difficulty in keeping the eyelids open
- Spasms that are slowly impacting the other muscles of the face
- When eyelid twitching causes one of the eyelids to shut
- Eyelid twitching that persists for over a week, causing severe discomfort
Treating Eyelid Twitching
Most causes of eyelid twitching that are not a result of an underlying medical condition will tend to cease in a day or so. Quitting smoking, as well as restricting alcohol and caffeine, can also help in a speedy recovery from the condition. In some cases, using over-the-counter eye drops can also help in controlling the eyelid twitching.
For more serious forms of twitching, there are various forms of medical treatments that are suggested by the doctor. For those suffering from benign essential and hemifacial spasms, Botox is often recommended as part of the treatment procedure, which directly impacts the affected facial muscles. Botox is a continuous treatment that should be done on a regular basis.
Natural Ways of Treating Eyelid Twitching
While there are medical procedures and medications that help in getting relief from the symptoms of eyelid twitching, there are also certain natural remedies that go a long way in treating the condition. Some of these natural remedies to treat and manage eyelid twitching include:
- Warm compress: Using a towel soaked in warm water, the towel can be used as an eye compress kept over the eye to get relief from eyelid twitching. A warm compress can help in improving the function of the eye muscles so that the involuntary movement of these muscles ceases to occur. The process should be repeated five to six times a day until the condition is completely cured. Warm compresses can also help relieve eye burning and irritation.
- Banana: Eyelid twitching is often associated with a deficiency of potassium in the body. Eating bananas every day is one of the best ways to combat this deficiency and treat problems like eyelid twitching.
- Massaging the eyes: Gently massage the areas above and below the eyes using two fingers. The gentle massage in circular movements helps in increasing the blood circulation in the body and also helps in improving the muscular strength around the eyes. When done continuously, this technique is known to effectively relieve eye twitching.
- Cucumber: One of the best ways to soothe eye muscles is by keeping some cool cucumber on the eyelids. The coolness from the cucumber acts as a relaxant and helps in easing the muscular movements of the eyelids. Cucumber also has certain anti-inflammatory properties, which go a long way in relaxing the muscles of the eyes, bringing them back to their original and normal movements.
- Steam: Steam is yet another great way to get relief from eye twitching. Steam helps in relieving the nerve movements of the eyes. It also removes all the dirt that clogs the skin around the eyes that could result in an infection or irritation causing eyelid twitching. You can add some essential oil while inhaling the steam. It can help tone the skin around the eyelids, relaxing them and improving their motion.
- Rose water: Rose water is one of the best ways to relax the eyes and remove tiredness from the skin. Rose water is a cleansing lotion, which can help relieve clogged and dirty pores. Rose water soaked in cotton eye pads can go a long way in relaxing the eyes, nourishing them from within.
Exercises That Help Get Rid of Eyelid Twitching
- Forced blinking: This is a great exercise that can help ease the muscular movements of the eyes. Hard blinking, as it is also called, can help in relieving eyelid twitching. Close your eyes tightly and then open them wide. This method helps in moisturizing the eyes and helps in regulating the eye movements. Repeat the process until you get some relief or until your eyes start watering. Watering of the eyes is a natural process, which means that the muscles and tissues of the eyes are working at their normal levels.
- Blinking fast: Blinking faster than usual for about 20 counts is yet another great exercise to naturally moisturize the eyes. It also helps in relaxing the muscles and getting their movements back in shape. Repeat the process until the time you are comfortable. Immediately stop if it causes pain or irritation.
- Breathing exercises: Practicing breathing exercises while your eyelid twitching is occurring can help relieve the condition, as breathing exercises can help reduce stress levels, which could be the root cause of the eyelid twitching problem.
Eyelid twitching is a very common problem and is not usually a cause for concern. However, be sure to contact your doctor if you have other accompanying symptoms.