What’s going on when your eyelid starts twitching? Called fasciculation, this symptom is actually pretty common — and it can affect the upper eyelids, involve muscles in the lower eyelids, or both.
The twitch may happen in one or both eyes and can occur spontaneously and uncontrollably. And once it starts, it can continue off and on for several days (or longer!) and then disappear.
If you’ve ever worried that your occasional eye twitch could be something serious, relax. Most often it’s a medical phenomenon known as benign essential blepharospasm, in which the eyelid muscles twitch involuntarily for an unpredictable length of time. It’s usually harmless—but annoying.
But just because it’s not dangerous doesn’t mean you should grin and bear it. We asked experts to share some lesser-known reasons why this happens and tips on how to quit the twitch fast.
Stress it the number one reason for a twitchy eye, or eye spasm, says Dr. Monica L. Monica M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Typically the patient deals with the twitching for a week or so when something is troubling them, they are in final exams, or just not sleeping well.”
“For most of us, these twitches are not a serious problem,” says Jeffrey Cain, M.D., president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the chief of family medicine at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver.. Generally, the body is just saying that it needs a break.
Your twitching can also be a result of chronic sleep deprivation, visual fatigue and tiredness that may lead to spasm/ irritation of eye muscles. In all such cases, relaxation of eyes (via sleeping or closing your eyes for 15 minutes) is helpful in alleviation of symptoms.
Eye twitching can also be due to visual acuity (eyesight issues). In addition, some individuals also experience eye twitching due to visual strain caused by prolonged use of incorrect lenses and glasses for visual enhancement. Twitching is the result of strain caused by persistent struggle of eyes for clearer vision. Last but not least, twitching eye can also be due to eye strain caused by long hours of multimedia use (computer, tablet, laptop, television etc.)
Nutritional Deficiencies or Imbalances
Lack of certain nutrients such as vitamins and minerals can also lead to eye twitching. It is imperative to mention that nutritional supplements should be considered only after consulting with your primary care provider.
Too much can be a trigger for eye twitches. Research from York University showed that caffeine triggers the release of serotonin and noradrenaline—excitable chemicals that may be stimulating the nerves to induce eyelid spasms.
For those of us who work on the computer a lot, this is a big one. (Read more about computer eye syndrome here.) Staring at the screen all day actually dries out your eyes. Scientists have discovered that working for more than 7 hours a day at the computer reduces the natural lubricants in tears, resulting in dry eyes. In fact, those who have been diagnosed with dry eye syndrome are more likely to suffer from eye twitching, too.
Mayo Clinic reports the following as reasons for the dreaded eye twitch:
Alcohol, Bright lights, Excessive caffeine, Fatigue and Smoking.
Very rarely, it can be a sign of a brain or nerve disorder, such as:
In most cases, minor eyelid twitch will disappear without you even noticing if you get enough rest and/or reduce or eliminate your intake of alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine. Blepharospasm does not occur while sleeping.
So far, doctors have not found a successful cure for benign essential blepharospasm. But several treatment options may reduce its severity.
The most commonly recommended treatment for benign essential blepharospasm is botulinum toxin (also known as Botox, Dysport, or Xeomin). It’s approved for this use in both the U.S. and Canada. Botox is also commonly recommended for patients with hemifacial spasm.
How to Stop Eye Twitching
Start with hard blinking.
Shut your eyes as tight as you can. Then open them up as wide as possible. Continue this type of blinking until your eyes begin producing tears. Stop immediately if you experience pain or if the twitching becomes significantly worse.
Doing this in quick succession spreads tear film evenly. This will cause relief by hydrating the eye, resting the lid, stretching the eye and facial muscles, and increasing eye circulation.
Relax your eyes with an eye massage.
Lightly massage your bottom eyelids in a circular motion using your middle fingers. Massage the lid of the twitching eye for approximately thirty seconds. To prevent irritation or infection, be sure your hands and face are clean first.
This method has shown results with increasing circulation as well as stimulating and strengthening muscles.
Blink for thirty seconds.
Try to do this with adequate speed. You should also make the movements very light. Imagine that your eyelashes are butterfly wings. The process of blinking is extremely important to your eyes. It relaxes most of the eye muscles, as well as lubricating and cleansing the eyeballs, which can stop the twitching. Stop immediately if you experience pain or if the twitching becomes significantly worse.
Close your eyelids halfway down.
You will notice that your upper eyelids constantly tremble with different amplitude. Concentrate your efforts on stopping this trembling.
By squinting and helping visual acuity, you place less strain on the eyes. This may help a twitch resulting from a tired eye.