What is eyelid twitching?
Eyelid twitching or myokymia is an involuntary eyelid spasm. The upper lid is usually affected, but spasms can also occur in the lower lid or both lids. Eyelid twitching is often mild for most people. However, others may experience stronger spasms, which may force their lids to completely close. In such cases, it would be a different condition called blepharospasm.
Eyelid spasms usually last for a few seconds up to a minute or two. These spasms are quite unpredictable in most cases. It may come and go for several days, and may recur after a few weeks or months. Most of the time, eyelid twitching is painless and does not cause any harm. However, it can be quite bothersome and cause a certain level of discomfort. The good news is that the spasms usually resolve on their own without any treatment. In a few rare cases, eyelid twitching may turn out to be an early warning sign of certain movements disorders, especially when the spasms are accompanied by other facial twitching and uncontrolled body movements.
Eyelid twitching usually occurs without any known cause. However, the following factors may trigger the spasms:
Some people may experience eye twitching due to stress, particularly when they have eye problems such as eye strain. Certain hormones are also released during stress, which prepares the body for "fight-or-flight". Stress can also lead to the arousal of the nerves and muscles, which in turn, can affect the eyelid leading to twitching.
2. Tiredness or Fatigue
Individuals who do not get enough sleep may also experience twitching of the eyelids. Eye spasms due to tiredness or fatigue may be relieved by catching up on more sleep.
3. Eye Strain
Eyelid twitching can also be triggered by vision problems. Vision problems may occur if people need eyeglasses or a change in their prescription glasses. It is important to undergo an eye examination to check your vision and update your eyeglass prescription.
Another common cause of eyelid twitching is computer eye strain due to the excessive use of computers and gadgets. When working on a computer for long hours or when constantly using digital devices, do not forget to use the “20-20-20 rule”, wherein you look away from the computer screen every 20 minutes and focusing on an object as far as 20 feet away from you for at least 20 seconds or more. Following this rule can help lessen eye fatigue, which can trigger eyelid spasms. It is highly recommended to speak with an eye doctor about using computer eyeglasses, especially if you spend long hours in front of a computer screen.
4. Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption
Consuming too much alcohol and caffeine is not good for the body, including the eyes, since it can also lead to eyelid twitching. Try to cut back on alcohol, chocolates, caffeine, tea, and soft drinks for a week or two and observe if it helps relieve the twitching. Choose decaffeinated versions instead.
5. Nutritional Imbalances
According to some reports, eyelid twitching may be triggered by nutritional imbalances in the body, such as magnesium deficiency. These reports are not conclusive, so a healthcare professional, such as a dietitian, may be of good help when it comes to correcting nutritional imbalances.
6. Dry Eyes
Twitching of the eye can also be caused by dry eyes, which itself can be due to numerous factors. The most common causes of dry eyes are certain medications and aging. However, the condition may also occur due to autoimmune diseases. The common medications that can trigger eyelid twitching are nasal decongestants, antihistamines, and antidepressants.
People who are 50 years old and older are more prone to having dry eyes, especially if they always use the computer or take medications such as antidepressants or antihistamines. Having dry eyes is also possible for those who wear contact lenses and those who excessively consume alcoholic or caffeinated drinks. By restoring the moisture at the surface of the eye, it may help stop the spasms as well as reduce the risk of eyelid twitching in the future.
If the spasms turn out to be a chronic condition, then an individual may be suffering from a condition called benign essential blepharospasm. It is a neurological disorder, which is characterized by uncontrolled winking or blinking and often affects both eyes. Its exact cause is still unknown, but the above-mentioned factors may potentially trigger the spasms.
When to See a Doctor
Serious cases of eyelid twitching are uncommon. Such condition also rarely requires immediate medical attention. However, persistent eyelid spasms may be due to certain nervous system disorders. Consult a doctor right away if you have chronic eyelid twitching along with one or more of the following symptoms:
- Red and swollen eyes with an unusual discharge
- Droopy upper eyelid
- Severe eyelid spasm (eye closes whenever the lids twitch)
- Non-stop twitching of the eyes (several weeks or more)
- Eyelid twitching affects other parts of the face
Most cases of eyelid twitching go away on their own without any treatment. It tends to resolve over a period of few days or weeks. The following tips can be helpful when it comes to reducing eye spasms that are caused by fatigue, stress, or excessive intake of caffeine:
- Get enough sleep.
- Apply warm compresses to the eyes as soon as the spasm starts.
- Limit your caffeine intake.
- Use over-the-counter lubricant eye drops.
Botulinum toxin injections may be used for the treatment of benign essential blepharospasm. These injections may help relieve the spasms for several months. However, you may need further Botox injections if the effects of your previous injection wear off. A surgical procedure called myectomy might be recommended by doctors in severe cases of benign essential blepharospasm.
Stress-related eyelid twitching can be relieved through breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and taking time off by spending more time with family, loved ones, or pets.
1. Hot and Cold Compresses
Since eyelid twitching is mostly caused by the muscles, then calming the muscles down through hot and cold compresses may help. You can alternately apply hot and cold compresses to the affected part of the eye. Hot compresses will dilate the blood vessels, and cold compresses will help constrict the same blood vessels. This method helps in increasing blood flow to the eye and relieves the twitching.
2. Steam Facial
This method not only calms the nerves, but it also hydrates the eyes as well as opens and cleans out the pores of the skin. Simply put some hot water in a bowl and then cover your head with a clean towel. Let the steam from the water warm your face. For those who are suffering from dry eyes or allergies, they can add some essential oils, such lavender or rose and see the magic work.
3. Going to Bed Early
Quality sleep is very important since it is the time when the body is in "repair mode". Try to go to bed at least 15 to 20 minutes earlier since it is the best method to catch up on some sleep without disturbances.