An eyelid twitch is a repetitive, involuntary spasm of the eyelid muscles. A twitch usually occurs in the upper lid, but it can occur in both the upper and lower lids. For most people, these strong enough that it forces you to close your eyelid completely. Some people never have any noticeable signs. Spasms typically occur every few seconds for a minute or two. Episodes of eyelid twitching are unpredictable. The twitch may occur off and on for several days. Then, 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 without the need for treatment. In rare cases, eyelid spasms may be an early warning sign of a chronic movement disorder, especially if the spasms are accompanied by other facial twitches or uncontrollable movements.
Eyelid spasms may occur without any identifiable cause, and because they are rarely a sign of a serious problem, the cause is not usually investigated. Nevertheless, eyelid twitches may be caused or made worse by:
- eye irritation
- eyelid strain
- lack of sleep
- physical exertion
- medication side effects
- use of alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine
How is it treated?
Most eyelid spasms go away without treatment in a few days or weeks. If they don’t go away, you can try to eliminate or decrease potential causes. The most common causes of eyelid twitch are stress, fatigue, and caffeine. To ease eye twitching, you might want to try the following:
- Drink less caffeine.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Keep your eye surfaces and membranes lubricated with over-the-counter artificial tears or eye drops.
- Apply a warm compress to your eyes when a spasm begins.
Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections are sometimes used to treat benign essential blepharospasm. Botox may ease severe spasms for a few months. However, as the effects of the injection wear off, you may need further injections. Surgery to remove some of the muscles and nerves in the eyelids (myectomy) can also treat more severe cases of benign essential blepharospasm. Physical therapy may also be useful for training the muscles in your face to relax.
If your eyelid spasms are happening more frequently over time, keep a journal and note when they occur. Note your intake of caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, as well as your level of stress and how much sleep you’ve been getting in the periods leading up to and during the eyelid twitching. If you notice that you get more spasms when you aren’t getting enough sleep, try to go to bed 30 minutes to an hour earlier to help ease the strain on your eyelids and to reduce your spasms.
Eyelid twitches have many causes. The treatment that works and the outlook varies depending on the person. Research is being done to see if there’s a genetic link, but it doesn’t seem to run in families. Twitches related to stress, lack of sleep, and other lifestyle factors have the best outlook. If an underlying health condition is the cause, then treating the underlying condition is the best way to relieve the twitching.