Team AckoSept 15, 2023
Eye Twitching (ET), clinically referred to as myokymia, usually happens only on one side and mostly affects the upper eyelid. However, the twitching of both the upper and lower lids can also occur. It starts suddenly, without any particular trigger. ET usually lasts for a few seconds, and generally disappears on its own. Some individuals can have it recur frequently. Usually, as it is a short duration of involuntary blinking, there is no significant disturbance to vision or general functioning. This article gives an overview of this condition.
Eye Twitching is most commonly an involuntary spasm of the muscles of the eyelid that starts suddenly, lasts for a short, nonspecific amount of time, and settles by itself. It is a very common symptom that most people face at some point in their life. It is almost always self-limiting and doesn’t last for longer than a few minutes.
The exact cause of Eye Twitching is not known. There are certain factors that are associated with an increased incidence of ET, such as:
Exposure to bright light
Irritation of the eyes by particles like dust, pollen, etc.
Increased strain from prolonged screen use
There are some medical conditions affecting different parts of the eye where Eye Twitching is an associated symptom.
Blepharitis: Inflammation of the eyelids is called blepharitis. It presents with irritation & redness, along with dry eyes and twitching.
Uveitis: Inflammation of the uvea (middle layer of the eye) is called uveitis. Uveitis presents with blurring of vision, pain, dry & red eyes, light sensitivity, & twitching.
Corneal abrasions: The front of the eye is made of a transparent curved structure called the cornea. A corneal abrasion refers to a scratch in this layer, usually caused by a foreign body. This can cause permanent vision impairment if left untreated.
There are some rare instances where Eye Twitching occurs due to some major issue in the brain or nerves. Some of these conditions include:
Bell’s Palsy (a disorder affecting the facial nerve)
Tourette’s Syndrome (a neurological disorder characterised by tics which are unwanted involuntary repetitive movements)
Certain severe forms of Eye Twitching also exist, where there is more severe spasm such as benign essential blepharospasm or hemifacial spasm.
Eye Twitching is a benign condition that rarely requires medical intervention as it resolves spontaneously and does not usually cause impairments to vision. However, if you have any of the following concerns along with Eye Twitching it is better to consult a doctor.
Drooping of the upper eyelid
Painful, red lid
Any discharge from the eye other than tears
Twitching that recurs very frequently
Twitching continued to last for several weeks
Twitching lasting for minutes to hours
Spasms of other parts of the face
Spasms causing complete shutting of the eyes
Any change in vision (blurring, double, darkening of peripheral vision)
In general, if you find the ET distracting, you can consult a doctor to assess if any eye drops or oral medications are needed. One of the most common causes of ET is dry eyes as people nowadays spend long hours looking at computer and phone screens. Hence, it is suggested to carry lubricating eye drops and keep the eyes moist as a primary measure.
Your ophthalmologist will elicit history and examine your eyes completely to look for any obvious underlying cause. If there is a suspicion of a neurological basis, they may refer you to a neurologist. If an underlying neurological issue is suspected, they may order scans of the brain (CT or MRI).
Most eye spasms are self-limiting. They don’t require any treatment. However, the following measures can help prevent their frequent recurrence.
Sleep regularly for 7 to 8 hours continuously every night. It is recommended to set fixed timings for going to sleep and waking up.
Limit screen time. Avoid overusing cell phones, laptops, television, and tablets for long hours. In case that is unavoidable, take frequent breaks by looking away from the screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
Keeping the eyes well lubricated with artificial tear drops (if you have dry eyes).
Wearing protective eye gear if you are exposed to wind. Protective eyewear can also help reduce eye strain from looking at screens.
Drink less caffeine.
Avoid smoking/ alcohol consumption.
Use a warm compress over the eye at the time of twitching.
Do not rub your eyes. It causes more harm by potentially introducing infections and damaging the delicate structures of your eye.
If your doctor suspects an underlying infection, they will prescribe antibiotics or other appropriate medications. Usually, these are prescribed in the form of eye drops for topical use.
Chronic Eye Twitching that is impairing vision & general activities requires targeted therapy. The use of Botox (Botulinum toxin) to relax/paralyse muscle spasms can be done. This requires intermittent doses to maintain a sustained effect. If the spasm does not settle and is debilitating, your doctor may suggest surgery, but this is rarely done.
Sustained Eye Twitching can be indicative of increased eye strain. If you experience Eye Twitching and other features of increased eye strain such as redness and watering, consult a doctor to know the optimal treatment.
I have started experiencing Eye Twitching since I started working the night shift. Can this be avoided?
Eye Twitching is commonly precipitated in people who are stressed or do not get adequate, regular sleep as is common in night shift workers. Ensure a regular sleep cycle and limited screen time use.
How long does Eye Twitching usually last?
There is no fixed duration for how long Eye Twitching lasts. Typically, it is resolved in under a minute. If it lasts for longer than that or occurs very frequently, it is recommended to consult an ophthalmologist.
What immediate steps can I take to stop Eye Twitching?
Eye Twitching usually stops on its own and no active measures are needed to stop it. Warm compresses can be used to soothe the eyes. Lubricating eye drops may also be useful. In case there are any specific allergies triggering the twitching, it is recommended to avoid it.
I get very severe twitching of the eyes and face. What could be the reason?
Severe spasms are usually the result of neurological conditions. In a rare condition called hemifacial spasm, there is twitching of one half of the face because of the involvement of the facial nerve. Such cases require more aggressive treatment using injections of botulinum toxin, medications such as anticonvulsants and even surgery.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions. Eye Twitching is written as ET in this article on a few occasions.
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