Eye twitching is something that happens to everyone now and then. A twitching eye doesn’t hurt, but it can certainly be very annoying. When your eye twitches, it usually indicates a muscle spasm. It can be very difficult to pinpoint what the specific cause might be, although if you’re a regular ‘eye twitcher’ you may be able to identify a trigger, such as stress or lack of sleep.
Causes of eyelid spasms include:
Occasionally, eye twitching can be indicative of something more serious and should be further investigated. Sustained, chronic movement of both eyes is known as ‘benign essential blepharospasm’. This indicates a neurological condition that can result from a range of disorders such as the following:
Although very rare, eye twitching may be a side effect of a brain or nerve disorder. They include:
Occasionally, a twitching eye can be a side effect of taking a certain medication, which may include drugs used for the treatment of psychosis and epilepsy.
A twitching eye is quite harmless. The majority of times, it should stop naturally after a short period. However, there are certain cases when you should seek advice from an eye doctor:
Your doctor will test for common signs that might indicate a brain or nerve disorder. In which case, you are likely to be referred to a neurologist or ophthalmologist.
In the majority of cases, a minor eye twitch will just disappear naturally after you have a good night’s sleep, although it will help if you also reduce your intake of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. If stress appears to be a trigger, long-term prevention should include finding ways to reduce your stress levels. In the case of dry eye, it may be worth trying ‘artificial tears’, available from your pharmacy, first. However, an eye doctor should be consulted if these don’t appear to help (find out more about our doctors here). For benign cases of ‘essential blepharospasm’, there is no successful cure, but there are some treatments that can reduce the severity of the condition. The most commonly recommended treatment is botulinum toxin (also known as Botox), which can help relieve spasms for a few months before its effect minimises. Generally, these have been found to provide short-term relief only and proven to be effective for a mere 15% of cases. You may find that other treatments such as biofeedback, acupuncture or hypnosis are effective.
That twitching eye of yours is most likely a harmless muscle spasm and is probably the result of triggers such as stress or fatigue. However, if the ‘twitch’ persists, see your optometrist or GP, who will refer you to an ophthalmologist if need be.