Eyelid twitches are uncontrolled movements of an eyelid that are caused by involuntary contractions of muscles around the eyes.
The more technical term for an eyelid twitch is blepharospasm ("blepharo-" is a Greek word root meaning "eyelid").
Many eye doctors use these terms interchangeably to describe a twitching eyelid, but some prefer to use the term "eyelid twitch" when the spasm is quite small and causes relatively minor, barely noticeable movement of the eyelid, and "blepharospasm" when the twitching is more severe, causing a partial or complete closure of the eyelids with each spasm.
Also, when an eyelid twitch is minor, usually only one eyelid of one eye is affected. In a major blepharospasm, both eyelids may be involved.
Most eyelid twitches come and go unpredictably for a few days and then disappear completely (as mysteriously as they started). But sometimes a twitching eyelid can persist intermittently for weeks or even months.
Because movement of the eyelid usually affects the stability of the eye, even very minor eyelid twitches can be very annoying to the person affected and cause "jittery" vision — even if the twitch is barely noticeable to others. Also, because vision can be affected, eyelid twitches sometimes are called "eye twitches;" but the problem originates in the eyelid and muscles around the eye, not the eyeball itself.
Almost all eyelid twitches are painless and are not a serious problem or an indication of an underlying condition or disease. However, in rare cases, a twitching eyelid may be an early sign of a chronic neuromuscular or movement disorder (such as Tourette's syndrome or Parkinson's disease), especially if facial spasms or other body movement problems develop.
What Causes Eyelid Twitches?
Eyelid twitches can happen to anyone, at any time, and most occur without an obvious cause. But possible contributing factors that have been identified include:
- Stress or anxiety
- Fatigue; inadequate sleep
- Eye strain
- Dry eyes
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids)
- Nutritional factors
Also, eyelid twitching can be a side effect of certain medications, particularly drugs used to treat epilepsy and psychosis.
How Can I Get an Eyelid Twitch To Stop?
Eyelid twitching usually resolves on its own without medical treatment. But if you have an annoying, recurring eyelid twitch, you might want to consider these possible remedies:
- Practice relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing.
- Get more sleep.
- Limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
- Stop smoking.
- Reduce eye strain by taking frequent breaks from computer use and texting.
- Use artificial tears several times a day to lubricate your eyes.
- If your eyes or eyelids are chronically red and irritated, see your eye doctor.
Sometimes, applying a warm or cold compress to the affected eyelid can temporarily or permanently stop the twitching.
If you suspect eye strain may be causing or contributing to your eyelid twitching and you haven't had an eye exam in more than a year, schedule an exam to see if you need vision correction or a change to your current eyeglasses or contact lens prescription.
Also, if you spend several hours a day working at a computer, sometimes specially prescribed computer glasses can relieve eye strain better than general purpose eyewear. Ask your eye care practitioner about computer glasses at your next eye test.
Allergies cause eye irritation, watery eyes, itching and swollen eyelids. Avoid rubbing your eyes if you are suffering from allergies, as this releases a substance called histamine into your tear film. Some researchers believe histamine may contribute to further eye irritation that can cause eyelid twitching.
To offset this problem, some eye doctors have recommended antihistamine eye drops or tablets to help resolve eyelid twitching in patients prone to allergies. But antihistamines also can cause dry eyes. It's best to work with your eye doctor to make sure you're doing the right thing for your eyes.
Also, some people believe nutritional imbalances, such as a lack of magnesium, might cause eyelid twitching and other muscular spasms. Though there may be insufficient research to verify such claims, it's always a good idea to look at your eating habits and make sure you are maintaining a healthful diet and staying well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
When In Doubt, See Your Eye Doctor
If you are bothered by an annoying eyelid twitch — especially if the twitching is frequent and persists for more than a week or it worsens with time — see your eye doctor.
If your eyelids close completely during the twitching or twitching occurs in other parts of your face as well, see your eye doctor immediately.
Also seek professional eye care if, in addition to a twitching eyelid, your eye is red and producing a mucous discharge. This could indicate a serious eye infection that requires immediate treatment.