Should I Be Worried About My Eye Twitching?

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What Is Eye Twitching?

Eye twitching occurs when the eye muscles experience involuntary spasms. This can cause an eyelid twitch or abnormal blinking.

There are three common types of eye twitching:

  • Myokymia is a minor eyelid twitch. This is the most common type of eye twitch. It is often due to fatigue, stress, caffeine, or irritation on your cornea. Minor eyelid twitching typically resolves itself and is no cause for concern.
  • Benign essential blepharospasm is a rare condition that develops in adulthood. It can cause your right, left, or both eyes to close involuntarily. In some cases, it may get worse and cause light sensitivity, blurry vision, or facial spasms.
  • A hemifacial spasm is an even more rare type of eye twitch. It is usually caused by an artery pressing against a facial nerve. It causes your eye, cheek, mouth, and neck muscles to twitch. In most cases only one side of the face is affected.

Why Is My Eye Twitching? (Common Causes)

There is no official known cause of eye twitching. However, it has been linked to many issues, including:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Exposure to bright lights
  • Caffeine consumption
  • Fatigue
  • Irritation or corneal abrasion
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Air pollution
  • Blepharitis
  • Dry eyes
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Medications and drugs

Less Common Causes of Eye Twitching

In more rare cases, eye twitching is caused by a serious medical issue, such as:

  • Bell’s palsy
  • Cervical dystonia
  • Dystonia
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Hemifacial spasm which occurs because of a compressed nerve on one side of the face
  • Benign essential blepharospasm, which is a condition characterized by abnormal blinking or eyelid spasms (also called eyelid twitching)

These conditions should not be confused with myokymia, which is common and harmless.

SUMMARY

Eye twitching happens when the eye muscles spasm involuntarily. It is commonly caused by factors like alcohol and caffeine consumption, fatigue, exposure to bright lights, stress, and others. Conditions like Bell's palsy, multiple sclerosis, tourette syndrome, and Parkinson's disease can also cause eye twitching.

When Should I Be Worried About Eye Twitching?

For most people, eye twitching is not a serious issue. However, you should seek medical attention if any of the following occurs:

  • Twitching lasts for more than one week
  • The eyelid shuts when it twitches and it’s difficult to re-open the eye
  • Twitching occurs elsewhere in the face or body
  • There is inflammation, irritation, redness, or swelling in the eye
  • There is eye discharge
  • Drooping and twitching occur simultaneously
  • Your upper eyelid droops

Can a Twitching Eye Be a Sign of Something Serious?

It is quite rare, but eyelid twitching can be a symptom of a brain or nervous system disorder.

For most people, eyelid muscle spasms are a temporary occurrence and aren’t a side effect of anything serious. However, eye twitching can be a symptom of a neurological condition, nerve disorder, or a virus.

Conditions that may cause eye twitches as a symptom include:

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. It causes cognitive as well as motor issues.
  • Bell's palsy also known as facial palsy, causes one side of your face to droop.
  • Parkinson's disease can cause shaking limbs, balance problems, stiffness in your muscles, and trouble speaking.
  • Tourette syndrome causes involuntary motor and verbal tics.
  • Dystonia can affect different parts of your body and cause muscle spasms, twisting, or contorting of the affected area.
  • Cervical dystonia, also called spasmodic torticollis, causes the neck to spasm and twist your head.

If an eyelid twitch is a concern or the twitching doesn’t resolve itself in a week, it’s best to schedule an appointment for a medical exam.

Is Eye Twitching a Sign of Stroke?

Eye twitching can be a sign of a stroke. You should not panic and assume you are having a stroke if your eye twitches. Instead, evaluate your medical condition for other concerns occurring simultaneously.

Most often, eye twitching accompanied by other symptoms is an indicator of a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke.

TIA occurs when there is a temporary blockage of a blood vessel in the brain. Symptoms of TIA include:

  • Eye or face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty

These symptoms almost always occur on only one side of the body. A TIA, though related to stroke, is different from a regular stroke because the blood clot that causes the TIA dissolves on its own, usually within a few minutes.

However, a TIA is a warning sign. Many people who experience TIA go on to have an ischemic stroke in which a blood clot does not dissolve before causing neurological damage. There are also instances in which someone who experiences TIA goes on to have a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when either a brain aneurysm bursts or a blood vessel leaks. Hemorrhagic strokes have a high fatality rate. The length of the blocking of blood flow determines the severity of an ischemic stroke.

According to the American Stroke Association, approximately a third of people who experience TIA have a full stroke within a year.

Is Eye Twitching a Sign of MS?

Although very rare, eye twitching can be a sign of a brain or nervous system disorder. This includes multiple sclerosis (MS), dystonia, Tourette syndrome, Parkinson's disease, and Bell's palsy. If this is the case, other symptoms are also present, not just eye twitching alone.

SUMMARY

Eye twitching is normal for some. However, it can be a cause for concern when the twitching becomes persistent, is present in other parts of the body, or starts to show signs of inflammation. When this happens, seek medical help immediately. Eye twitching may be a sign of stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other nervous system-related disorders.

How Do You Stop a Twitching Eye?

The best way to control eyelid spasms is based on the cause of the twitching. For example, if twitching is caused by a certain situation, do the following:

  • Too much caffeine. Cut back on or eliminate the consumption of caffeinated beverages.
  • Stress. Look for ways to eliminate stress in your daily life. You can also incorporate stress reduction techniques, such as meditation or exercise.
  • Lack of sleep. Alter your sleep schedule to ensure you get at least seven hours of sleep per night.
  • Eyestrain from long-term exposure to screens. Limit time in front of your computer and take frequent breaks.
  • Eye irritation or dry eyes. Consider using over-the-counter artificial tears or moisturizing eye drops.

Regardless of the cause of eye twitching, applying a warm compress to your eye helps. Some people have had success using a chamomile tea bag as a compress. Gentle massaging also tends to help.

For severe eye twitching, ask your doctor about:

  • Botox (botulinum toxin) injections to paralyze the muscles around the eye
  • Medication
  • Surgery

It’s important to speak to your doctor about your eye twitching concerns if they do not resolve within a few weeks with at-home treatment.

Resources
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“Eye Twitching Causes.” Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/eye-twitching/basics/causes/sym-20050838.

“Eyelid Spasm and Twitching Treatment.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 10 Sept. 2019, www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/eyelid-spasm-twitch-treatment

“Eyelid Twitch: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” Medlineplus.Gov, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000756.htm.

“TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack).” Www.Stroke.Org, 2019, www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/types-of-stroke/tia-transient-ischemic-attack.

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