Twitching Eyes – When Should You Be Worried?
A minor eyelid twitch, that usually goes away on its own and is harmless, is often associated with lifestyle factors like excessive caffeine consumption, lack of sleep, fatigue, or stress. In very rare cases, eyelid spasms that last longer (say a week or more!) could indicate an underlying brain or nerve disorder, severe eye infection or an injury to the cornea.
We have all felt the niggle of an eye twitch at some point. Though rarely painful or uncomfortable, this involuntary spasm or contraction of the eyelids (often the upper eyelid) can be annoying.
Some Possible Causes Of Eye Twitching
Eye twitching or blepharospasm can recur every few seconds or minutes and in most cases will settle down on its own. What exactly causes it is still unknown, but some possible factors at the root of that twitch include:
Fatigue, stress, not getting enough sleep, too much caffeine, and exposure to bright lights can all cause your eyes to twitch. This usually goes away on its own and is harmless.
Eye twitches that last longer, say a week or more, may be caused by eye irritation as a result of an injury to the cornea, dry eyes, sensitivity to light, or eye infections.1
Progressive Neurological Disorder
Sometimes, eye twitches are caused by a progressive neurological disorder called benign essential blepharospasm. It may begin with an increase in the frequency of your blinking. You may also find it difficult to keep your eyes open and feel sensitivity to light. The spasm usually occurs when you’re awake and settles down when you’re asleep. As it progresses, it may cause your eyelids to stay closed for longer periods and interferes with sight.2
Eye twitches are also generally the first symptom of a neuromuscular disorder called hemifacial spasm where you experience frequent spasms in the muscles on one side of the face. This disorder is more common among middle-aged or elderly women. The condition may manifest first as a twitching of the eyelid muscle, which can forcibly close the eyelid and spread to other muscles on one side of the face. It could be caused by a tumor or facial nerve injury. Sometimes though, there may be no discernible cause.3
Other Brain And Nerve Conditions
In very rare cases, eyelid spasms could be an indication of brain and nerve conditions like tardive dyskinesia (a neurological condition which is caused by using neuroleptic drugs for a long time) or Tourette syndrome (a neurological disorder characterized by motor and vocal tics).4
When Should You Go To The Doctor?
Though eye twitches are usually not serious, it is a good idea to see your doctor if:
- The twitching continues for more than a week.
- The twitching causes your eyelid to completely close.
- Other parts of your face are also affected by spasms.
- Your eyelids are drooping.
- Your eyes are swollen or red, or they are discharging fluid.5
What Can You Do About It?
Cases of essential blepharospasm6 and hemifacial spasms7 are usually treated with injections of botulinum toxin. Surgery might also be recommended in certain cases.
But in most mild cases of eye twitching, some simple remedies can come in handy:
- Getting enough sleep and laying off the coffee may be all you need to do sort out those twitches.
- If tiredness and strain are causing your eye to twitch, you may get some relief by gently massaging the eyelid.8
- Aromatherapy recommends placing a cool compress with a few drops of chamomile or rose oil over the eyes for relief.
- Drinking infusions of herbs such as chamomile or lavender can help you relax and deal with the tension or stress that might be causing your eye to twitch.
- Homeopathy prescribes codeinum (an opium alkaloid) for twitching eyes and pulsatilla (windflower) if you also have inflammation. Your homeopathic doctor will be able to guide you on what is appropriate.9
References [ + ]
|1, 4, 5.||↑||Twitching eye, Healthdirect Australia Ltd.|
|2, 6.||↑||NINDS Benign Essential Blepharospasm Information Page, National Institutes of Health.|
|3, 7.||↑||NINDS Hemifacial Spasm Information Page, National Institutes of Health.|
|8.||↑||Kakar, Sonia. The Little Book of Good Health: Facts, Tips and Habits. Exisle Publishing, 2013.|
|9.||↑||Shealy, Norman. The Healing Remedies Sourcebook: Over 1000 Natural Remedies to Prevent and Cure Common Ailments. Da Capo Press. 2012.|