Have you ever experienced having an eyelid twitch? Also known as an eyelid tic, this is a mild spasm or sudden movement of your lower or upper eyelid. It can come on suddenly, and while most cases last for only a few minutes, some can extend for hours, days or even longer.1
Whether it's your left eye or right eye that's twitching, this condition, albeit generally harmless, can be quite annoying. But what does eye twitching mean for your health, and what can you do to ease or prevent it from occurring?
In this article, you'll learn everything there is to know about eye twitching: what causes them, the usual triggers and when you should consult a physician to address this issue.
Basically, an eyelid twitch is a repetitive, involuntary spasm of the eyelid muscle.2 The medical term for an eyelid twitch is "myokymia," and these muscle contractions usually involve only the lower eyelid, although the upper eyelid may have these spasms, too. It usually happens in one eye at a time.3
So what exactly makes your eye twitch? According to Medical News Today, a one-time eyelid twitch may be due to electrical brain activity that prompts the nerve cells to flash signals to the muscles, which then leads to spasms. However, if the twitch lasts for several minutes to a few days, muscle fatigue or overstimulation may be the culprit, and may be commonly triggered by:4
Other possible causes of eyelid twitching, or factors that may worsen it, include:
Eye twitching can be bothersome, but they are oftentimes painless and harmless. Most of the time, they resolve on their own without requiring any medical attention. However, there are instances when eye twitching, especially persistent and chronic spasms, can be a sign of a more severe condition.5
One example is benign essential blepharospasm. This typically starts out as increased blinking of both eyes. However, it may lead to the eyelids being squeezed shut. While relatively uncommon, this type of eye twitching can severely affect your daily activities.6 The triggers and risk factors of this condition are similar to those of myokymia, although other potential causes include conjunctivitis and blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid).7
Benign essential blepharospasm is more prevalent in females than males, and affects at least 50,000 Americans in their mid or late adulthood.8 It can worsen over time, causing blurry vision, facial spasms and increased sensitivity to light. Hence, if you're experiencing chronic myokymia, it's best to have an ophthalmologist check your eyes to determine if you have this more severe condition.
The most effective way to stop eye twitching from occurring is by identifying its causes and triggers. These basic lifestyle strategies may help resolve this issue:9,10
• Reduce your caffeine intake — Try cutting back or eliminating caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee, as well as chocolate, from your diet for a week or two, and see if the twitching continues.
• Stop alcohol intake — Alcohol causes your eyelids to twitch, so it's best to abstain from it.
• Get enough sleep — Aim for seven to eight hours of high-quality sleep each night, and limit your use of electronics like TV and mobile devices before bedtime. Check out these tips to help you get high-quality sleep.
• Moisturize your dry eyes — Adults are prone to getting dry eyes, especially when they reach age 50. Taking certain medications, using a computer for long periods of time and wearing contact lenses may lead to dry eyes, so try avoiding these to see if your eye twitching will stop.
• Stay hydrated — Dehydration may lead to eye twitching, so try increasing your water intake.
• Address nutritional imbalances — While still inconclusive, there are reports suggesting that lacking nutrients like magnesium may trigger eye twitching. Get these nutrients from a wholesome, nutritionally balanced diet.
Eye hydrotherapy may help ease this issue as well. Simply splash cold and warm water alternately over your closed eyes. The cold water helps constrict blood vessels while warm water dilates them — eventually, this will increase circulation and blood flow to the eye.
Simple massage and exercise techniques may also help relax your eyes and prevent spasms from occurring. Try any of these methods:11
- Do a circular eye massage — In a circular motion, massage your eyelid lightly, using your middle finger, for approximately 30 seconds. This will help boost circulation and stimulate and strengthen your eye muscles.12
- Try hard blinking — First, shut your eyes as tightly as you can, and then open them as wide as possible. Keep repeating until you start tearing up. This technique will not only hydrate the eyes, but also stretch your eye and facial muscles, increase circulation and rest the lid. However, if the spasms worsen or if you feel pain, stop doing this.
- Do eye squeezing — Close your eyes for a full minute. During this time, try squeezing them more tightly, and then release without opening. Do this three times before opening your eyes. This will help keep your eye muscles strong and increase tear production.13
Most cases of eyelid twitching are mild and do not need any medical treatment. However, if you've been experiencing these spasms for a long period of time, it might be pointing to a nervous system or brain disorder, and may require prompt evaluation by a physician. Be on the lookout for these symptoms as well:14
- Your upper eyelid is drooping
- An unusual discharge comes from your eye
- Your eye is red and swollen
- When your eyelid twitches, they close completely
- The twitching continues for several weeks
- Other parts of your face are being affected
Oftentimes, eyelid twitching is nothing to worry about, and is just a sign that you need to make certain lifestyle changes. However, if the condition is chronic or you experience any of the worrisome symptoms above, consult a doctor to get a proper diagnosis — it can indicate a serious illness.
Q: Why is my eye twitching?
A: Eye twitching can have a number of causes, such as caffeine and/or alcohol intake, stress, fatigue and insufficient sleep.
Q: What causes your eye to twitch for long periods of time?
A: Having chronic eyelid spasms might be indicative of a serious brain or nervous system disorder — if this happens to you, consult a physician immediately.
Q: How do you get rid of an eye twitch?
A: Adopting certain habits like reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, addressing stress and getting enough sleep may help alleviate eye spasms. Eye exercises may also be helpful.