What You Need to Know
- Eye twitching is a common condition that may run in families.
- The exact cause of eye twitching is not known, but the condition can originate in the motor nerves of the brain.
- Dry eyes, stress, fatigue, eye strain, and certain medications can contribute to an episode.
- Eye twitching is temporary in most cases and goes away on its own. Medication and occasionally surgery can address more persistent cases.
What is Eye Twitching?
Eye twitching is a common, sometimes hereditary condition that can be classified into two categories:
Eyelid myokymia: This form is a mild case of occasional eye twitching in which most patients do not require treatment.
Benign essential blepharospasm: This form involves sustained, involuntary contractions that result in partial or complete closure of the eyelids. Patients with benign essential blepharospasm may have significant functional impairment and require long-term treatment of the condition.
What Causes Eye Twitching?
The exact cause of eye twitching is not known but can be caused or aggravated by a range of factors, including:
- Eye strain
- Certain drugs and medications, including caffeine
- Dry or irritated eyes
- Insufficient sleep
Eye Twitching Symptoms
Eye twitching affects the muscles in the eyelid and causes twitching or involuntary blinking. Mild twitching of the eyelid can feel more noticeable than it actually is — observers are not likely to notice a twitching eyelid in another person.
In more severe cases, the twitching can result in forceful eyelid closure that lasts for seconds, minutes, or even hours. Symptoms may become more noticeable over time.
Eye Twitching Diagnosis
If episodes of eye twitching are bothersome, a doctor may be consulted to rule out other eye problems such as blepharitis (inflamed eyelids) or nervous system disorders such as:
How to Stop Eye Twitching
Mild cases of eye twitching are self-limiting, meaning they resolve on their own. There are some steps you can take to help the process along.
- Get more sleep
- Reduce your caffeine and/or alcohol intake
- Try stress reduction methods such as exercise, breathing exercises, or meditation
- Use artificial tear eye drops to alleviate dry eyes
Eye Twitching Treatment
If eye twitching lasts for weeks, or results in difficulty in opening the eye or difficulty seeing, contact your eye doctor to determine next steps. Your doctor may recommend medications or a treatment plan for botulinum toxin injections. Botulinum toxin is injected under the skin around the eyes. The toxin relaxes and weakens the muscles just underneath the skin, and each set of injections prevents spasms for about three months. Side effects of these injections may include minor bruising at the injection sites, temporary eyelid drooping, or temporary double vision.
Rarely, in severe cases, surgery may be recommended if symptoms are not adequately controlled by the botulinum toxin injections.
Neuro-ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute
Wilmer Eye Institute’s neuro-ophthalmology division specializes in vision issues caused by optic disorders, strokes and brain tumors, defects in the visual fields, and involuntary spasms of the face and eyelids.