What Is an Eye Twitch?
An eye twitch is an eye muscle or eyelid spasm or movement that you can’t control. Your doctor might call it blepharospasm. It tends to happen more in your upper eyelid. The lid moves every few seconds, usually just for a minute or two.
Types of Eye Twitches
There are three common kinds of eye twitches.
A minor eyelid twitch is often linked to everyday things like fatigue, stress, or caffeine. You might also have it because the surface of your eye (cornea) or the membranes that line your eyelids (conjunctiva) are irritated.
Benign essential blepharospasm usually shows up in mid- to late adulthood and gets worse over time. Only about 2,000 people are diagnosed with it in the United States each year. Women are twice as likely to get it as men. It isn’t a serious condition, but more severe cases can interfere with your daily life.
It starts with nonstop blinking or eye irritation. As it gets worse, you may be more sensitive to light, get blurry vision, and have facial spasms. The spasms might become so severe that your eyelids stay shut for several hours.
Researchers think things in your genes and in the world around you cause it.
A hemifacial spasm is even more rare. It involves the muscles around your mouth and your eyelid. Unlike the other two types, it usually affects only one side of your face. Most often, the cause is an artery pressing on a facial nerve.
Causes and Triggers of Eye Twitching
Your eyelid might twitch because of an unusual signal in your brain or the muscles of your face. Everyday things that can trigger this include:
- Light sensitivity
- Some medications, especially those that treat psychosis and epilepsy
It’s rare, but some brain and nervous system disorders can also cause eyelid twitching. These include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Brain damage
- Multiple sclerosis
- Bell’s palsy
- Tourette’s syndrome
Eye Twitching Complications
Some people can have eye spasms all day. They might go on for days, weeks, or months. They could distract you and affect your quality of life.
If your twitch doesn’t go away, you may wink or squint all the time and have trouble seeing.
Talk to your doctor if:
- The twitch lasts more than 1 week
- Your eyelid closes completely
- Spasms involve other facial muscles
- You have eye redness, swelling, or discharge
- Your upper eyelid droops
If your doctor suspects a brain or nerve problem, they’ll check for other common signs of the condition. They might refer you to a specialist such as a neurologist.
Eye Twitching Treatment
Most minor twitches go away on their own. It might help to get plenty of rest and cut back on alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. If dry eyes or irritated eyes are the cause, try over-the-counter artificial tears.
There’s no cure for benign essential blepharospasm. But your doctor can help ease your symptoms. The most common treatment is botulinum toxin (Botox, Dysport, Xeomin). It also treats hemifacial spasm.
Your doctor will inject small amounts into your eye muscles to ease the spasms. The effect lasts a few months and it slowly wears off. You’ll need more than one treatment.
In mild cases, your doctor might suggest medications like:
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Trihexyphenidyl hydrochloride (Artane, Trihexane, Tritane)
These usually offer short-term relief.
Alternative treatments include:
- Nutrition therapy
- Tinted glasses
Scientific studies haven’t proved that these treatments work.
In some cases, your doctor may suggest surgery. In a procedure called a myectomy, they take out some of the muscles and nerves around your eyelid.
Surgery can also relieve the pressure of the artery on your facial nerve that causes a hemifacial spasm. The results are permanent. But as with any operation, there’s a chance of complications.
Eye Twitching Outlook
Your outlook depends on what kind of twitching you have and what’s causing it. Minor twitches are painless and harmless. They usually go away on their own. Blepharospasm is a lifelong condition, but you might notice that you can prevent symptom flare-ups by avoiding certain things like fatigue or caffeine.
- Merz Pharmaceuticals, LLC.
- University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center: “Eyelid Spasms (Eye Twitching or Eye Twitch)" and “Understanding Benign Essential Blepharospasm & Hemifacial Spasm."
- National Eye Institute: “Facts About Blepharospasm."
- Dystonia Medical Research Foundation: “Blepharospasm."
- Genetics Home Reference: “Benign Essential Blepharospasm."
- American Academy of Opthalmology: “Blepharospasm."
- American Academy of Ophthalmology: “How to Stop Eye Twitching.”
- American Academy of Family Physicians: “Blepharospasm.”
- Cedars-Sinai: “Eye Twitching.”
- Mayo Clinic: “Eye Twitching.”