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What Causes Eye Twitching?
Eye twitching occurs when the muscles around the eye involuntarily spasm. An eye twitch is medically known as myokymia.
There is no official known cause, but it is linked to many issues, including:
- Alcohol consumption
- Exposure to bright lights
- Caffeine consumption
- Irritation or corneal abrasion
- Air pollution
- Dry eyes
- Nutritional deficiency
Sometimes eye twitching is caused by a serious medical issue, such as:
- Bell’s palsy
- Cervical dystonia
- Multiple sclerosis
- 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)
Eye twitching can also occur when someone is using certain drugs. These conditions should not be confused with myokymia, which is common and harmless.
When Should I Be Worried About Eye Twitching?
For most people, blepharospasm or eye twitching is not a serious issue. However, you should seek medical attention if any of the following occurs:
- Twitching lasts for a few weeks or more
- The eyelid shuts when it twitches and it’s difficult to re-open the eye
- Twitching occurs elsewhere in the body
- There is inflammation, irritation, redness, or swelling in the eye
- There is eye discharge
- Drooping and twitching occur simultaneously
Can a Twitching Eye Be a Sign of Something Serious?
For most people, eyelid muscle spasms are a temporary occurrence and aren’t one of the side effects of anything serious. However, eye twitching can be a symptom of a neurological condition or a virus. Twitching can also be a sign of a condition like Bell’s Palsy.
If an eyelid twitch is a concern or the twitching doesn’t resolve itself in a couple of weeks, it’s best to schedule an appointment for a medical exam.
Is a Twitching Eye a Sign of a 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, but you should 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. In addition to eye drooping, symptoms of TIA include:
- 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.
What Can You Do to 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
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.