Eye Twitching

Overview

Why is my eye twitching?

Eyelid twitching isn’t typically a sign of anything serious. But in some cases, it can be a serious inconvenience or downright annoying, like when you’re driving home from work or sitting in a meeting. Sporadic spasms are common. Thankfully, they usually stop on their own. But why eyes twitch and what you can do to stop them are questions we all ask ourselves.

Medical conditions that can cause your eye (whether one or both) to twitch include:

  • Blepharospasm: A nervous system condition that causes increased blinking and involuntary closing of both eyes. Blepharospasm is sometimes linked to a problem in a part of your brain called the basal ganglia, which can rarely be inherited. Experts estimate that between 20,000 and 50,000 Americans have essential blepharospasm and their eyelid twitches are chronic and don’t go away. This condition is a type of movement disorder called dystonia, where involuntary movements persist and usually get worse over time.
  • Hemifacial spasm: This condition causes contractions of muscles on one side of your face, including your eyelids. Experts think facial nerve irritation causes hemifacial spasms.
  • Eyelid myokymia: Another condition that usually involves one eye and is less forceful than blepharospasm.
  • Meige syndrome: People who have benign essential blepharospasm sometimes develop Meige syndrome (sometimes also called Brueghel syndrome). It occurs when you have forceful, often painful spasms of the muscles that move your eyes, lower face and jaw. People who have Meige syndrome have spasms of the tongue and jaw as well as eyelids. The cause is unknown, but your brain’s basal ganglia are believed to be at fault.

People who experience chronic eye spasm find some conditions may make their twitching worse, including:

Who is most likely to develop eye twitching?

Anyone can develop the temporary type of eyelid twitches, but some have a higher risk of the chronic kinds:

  • Sex: Both benign essential blepharospasm and Meige syndrome are twice as common in women or people designated female at birth (DFAB) as in men or people designated male at birth (DMAB), although no one knows why.
  • Genetics: You can develop benign essential blepharospasm with no family history and most cases are this way. Studies show that chronic benign essential blepharospasm is more common in some families, but geneticists haven’t identified which genes are responsible for passing down the condition. Geneticists have established that having one parent with the condition seems to be enough to pass it down.

Possible Causes

What causes eye twitching?

There are a variety of factors that can cause your eyelid to twitch (besides the medical conditions mentioned). These may include:

  • Bright lights or sun.
  • Eye strain.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Physical overexertion.
  • Side effects of some medicines.
  • Smoking or using tobacco products.
  • Alcohol.
  • Caffeine.
  • Stress.

The most common causes of eye twitches are stress and fatigue. Make sure you get enough exercise, at least seven to eight hours of sleep and stay hydrated. Once you relax, most cases of eyelid spasms pass — though if you’re super stressed this might take up to a few weeks.

Care and Treatment

How to stop my eye twitch?

Most cases of eyelid twitches are stress-related and not serious, but they can keep you from focusing and being productive. If eye twitches are bothering you, there are steps you can take.

Try these tips to tame the twitch:

  • Get more sleep.
  • Cut caffeine.
  • Manage stress.
  • Exercise.
  • Stop smoking.

If you have essential blepharospasm, a rose tint added to glasses called FL-41 may help if you have very light-sensitive eyes.

If you have tried everything to destress and still experience eyelid twitches, you may decide it’s time to seek medical attention.

Your doctor may offer you several treatment options, depending upon your case:

  • Eye drops such as cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion (Restasis®) to moisten dry eyes.
  • Oral medications are available but not always helpful. They include trihexyphenidyl (Tremin®), baclofen (Ozobax®), clonazepam (Klonopin®), tetrabenazine (Xenazine®) and carbamazepine (Equetro®).
  • Neurotoxin injections to relax the muscles and prevent twitching.
  • Myectomy is an invasive surgery for severe eyelid twitching associated with essential blepharospasm that involves removing part of the muscle.

Your doctor will prescribe the approach that matches the severity of your condition until it resolves and you are twitch-free and comfortable again.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I see a doctor about my eye twitch?

Generally, it’s a good idea to seek help if you experience:

  • Twitching that lasts more than a few days.
  • Twitches in other parts of your face/body.
  • Weakness, eyelid drooping or double vision.
  • Increased light sensitivity.
  • Red eyes.
  • Eyelid swelling.
  • Discharge from your eye.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Blurred or loss of vision in one or both eyes.

When is an eye twitch a sign of something more serious?

In very rare cases, an eyelid twitch can be a sign of a nerve or brain disorder. If your only symptom is an eye twitch, you probably have a sporadic spasm that usually results from stress. If you experience other symptoms as well, it could be a sign of something to see your doctor about right away, such as:

A note from Cleveland Clinic:

Eye twitches are normally just an annoyance. More often than not, you should just take them as a sign that you need to take time to decompress and manage stress. On the very rare occasions when an eyelid twitch signals something more serious, heed the call to seek medical attention. If your eye twitches are bothersome or concerning, don't hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/14/2021.

References

  • National Eye Institute. Facts about Blepharospasm. (https://nei.nih.gov/health/blepha/blepharospasm) Accessed 11/5/2021.
  • US National Library of Medicine. Botox. (https://medlineplus.gov/botox.html) Accessed 11/5/2021.
  • American Psychological Association. Five tips to help manage stress. (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.aspx) Accessed 11/5/2021.
  • US National Library of Medicine. Benign Essential Blepharospasm. (https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/benign-essential-blepharospasm) Accessed 11/5/2021.
  • Boghen DR, Lesser RL. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Lesser%20RL%5BAuthor%5D&cauthor=true&cauthor_uid=11096764) Blepharospasm and Hemifacial Spasm. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11096764/) Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2000 Sep;2(5):393-400. Accessed 11/5/2021.

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