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What Is Eye Twitching?
Many people experience eye twitching occasionally. It is usually not a cause for concern, but it can be an indication of a greater eye health problem. Eye twitching, medically known as myokymia, occurs when there is an involuntary contraction in the eyelid muscle.
Common Causes of Eye Twitching (Eyelid Spasms)
The exact cause is unknown and might vary from person to person. Some people notice an increase in twitching when they are experiencing stress. Instances of twitching also tend to increase:
- With higher consumption of caffeine
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- During periods of frequent squinting
- With the consumption of alcohol
- For smokers
- With wind exposure
Prolonged periods of looking at a computer, phone screen, or book can cause eye strain, which can also increase twitching. Corneal abrasions also cause twitching.
Another cause of eye twitching is dry eyes. People who experience chronic or occasional dry eyes tend to have a more frequent issue with twitching. Eye twitching is also linked to allergies.
What Conditions Can Make Eye Twitches Worse?
Most instances and causes of eye twitching are not serious, but there are two instances in which a serious eye health condition will cause twitching. These include:
- Hemifacial spasms, caused by a small artery that irritates a facial nerve
Benign essential blepharospasm causes involuntary movements in the eye. There is no known cause, but researchers believe it is linked to a malfunction of basal ganglia, which are cells in the nervous system.
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In addition to the causes and conditions listed above, eye twitching is an indication of a brain or nervous system disorder. It is rarely the only symptom a person experiences when this is the case. Eye twitching has also been linked to the following:
- Bell’s palsy
- Cervical dystonia
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Tourette syndrome
- Oromandibular dystonia and facial dystonia
- Chronic movement disorder
Some people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease experience eye twitching as a side effect of the medication used to treat their primary condition.
Complications of Eyelid Twitching
Complications of eye twitching are rare. It tends to be a temporary, highly treatable, and preventable issue. However, some people experience side effects caused by twitching, including:
- Drooping eyelids
- Double vision
- Blurred vision
- Excessive tearing
- Injury to the cornea
- Permanent eye damage
When to See a Doctor
Eye twitching is usually not a cause for serious concern, especially if it only lasts for a short time. However, if the twitching persists or someone is experiencing other symptoms in addition to twitching, it’s important to speak to a doctor.
If eye twitching is interfering with daily activities or your ability to sleep, it is essential to see a doctor even if the cause is not serious. Treatment is available, so there is no reason to allow eye twitching to affect your quality of life. Your doctor will assess your overall health and refer you to a vision specialist for an eye exam to rule out any serious causes or vision concerns.
Contact your doctor if you experience eye twitching that:
- Lasts more than a few weeks
- Causes your eyelid to close or affects your vision
- Spreads to other areas of your face
- Causes discharge or tearing
- Causes swelling or redness around your eye
- Develops into eyelid drooping
Treatment for Eye Twitching
Temporary instances of eye twitching usually don’t require treatment. However, if twitching interferes with your quality of life, affects your vision, or is chronic, treatment is necessary.
In some cases, treatment includes only lifestyle changes, such as:
- Reducing screen time
- Avoiding eye strain
- Reducing stress
- Increasing and/or improving sleep
Surgery, drug therapy, and preventative therapy are also treatment options for eye twitching. Many people try several different combinations of treatment before finding what works best for them.
Three of the most common treatments for chronic eye twitching include:
Botulinum Toxin (Botox)
The muscles around the eye are injected with botulinum toxin when eye twitching is chronic and uncomfortable. This paralyzes the muscles so they are no longer able to contract and twitch.
For some people, eye twitching requires a surgical procedure called myectomy. This involves removing some of the muscles and nerves in the eyelids.
Eye drops are effective for easing twitching, especially when the condition is directly related to dry eye. Eye drops are available over the counter, but your doctor might also recommend specific types of drops if you suffer from chronic dry eyes.
How to Prevent Eye Twitches
For many people, the best treatment for eye twitching is taking steps to prevent it from occurring. There are several things you can do to reduce twitching, many of which offer additional benefits. The most common options for preventing eye twitching include:
- Taking measures to keep stress under control
- Limiting screen time and other activities that cause eye strain
- Taking frequent breaks when screen time is unavoidable
- Getting plenty of sleep to allow eye muscles to relax
- Limiting caffeine intake
- Engaging in relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
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