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Why is my eye twitching?

A slight spasm. A gentle tug. A flickering feeling. An uncontrollable need to blink.

Twitching eyelids are common. Mild twitching can feel worse or more frequent than it is. You know it is happening but nobody else can see it when it does. Nevertheless, eye twitches are bothersome, and symptoms can become more noticeable over time.

What causes eye twitching? How can you make it stop? And when should you worry?

Causes of eye twitching

Eye twitching, or myokymia, is a repeated and involuntary spasm of the muscles in the eyelid. Most of the time, eye twitches are nothing to worry about and will stop on their own without treatment. Twitches in the eyelid can be brought on by aggravating factors such as

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Eye strain
  • Substance abuse
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Caffeine and alcohol
  • Wind
  • Pollution
  • Dryness
  • Allergies
  • Exposure to bright lights or bad lighting
  • Smoking cigarettes

How to stop eye twitches

If you suddenly start to experience eyelid spasms, consider the factors that could be causing them. Are you tired and not getting enough sleep? Or have you recently started taking a new medicine?

To help your eyes, make sure that you get enough rest and sleep, use alcohol and caffeine in moderation, and keep your eyes well-lubricated with gentle eye drops or artificial tears.  A good way to relax your eyes is with a warm compress. Dip a cloth into warm water, close your eyes and place the warm cloth over them for a few minutes. This can also help to alleviate dry eyes. Of course, getting adequate sleep is a way to relax your tired eyes.

If your eye twitching is caused by digital eye strain, make sure that your computer screen is positioned an arm’s length away from your face, take regular breaks from staring at your screen, and consider getting accommodative support lenses and blue light control lenses, which are designed to support your vision and reduce the impact of computer use on the eyes.

When you should worry about eye twitching?

Eye twitches can be an unpredictable nuisance. They may last a few seconds, happen every few minutes or only every few hours, and continue for a couple of days. When they don’t resolve on their own within a few weeks, visit your optometrist for a check-up.

An optometrist will investigate the possible causes of excessive eye twitching and conduct a vision exam. Your eye doctor might recommend computer glasses to alleviate eye strain caused by excessive screen time or a treatment plan for botox injections to relax the muscles around the eyelid and prevent spasms. Sometimes, in rare cases, surgery might be necessary to stop eye twitching.

If your eye doctor suspects that your eye twitching is caused by a nervous system disorder such as Bell’s palsy, Multiple sclerosis, Dystonia or Tourette syndrome, you will be advised to see a medical doctor.

Symptoms to watch out for

You should see your eye doctor if you notice other symptoms such as

  • Redness
  • Discharge
  • Swelling
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Your eyelid closes when it twitches, and you have difficulty re-opening your eye. This is known as blepharospasm.

Can you prevent eye twitching

Eye twitching occurs spontaneously and is unpredictable. It can happen to anyone. While there is no way to prevent eye twitching, avoiding aggravating factors can help.

Limit screen time

Spending too much time in front of your laptop or smartphone causes digital eye strain with symptoms including headache, burning eyes, blurred vision, and eye twitching.

Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can lead to eye strain and eye fatigue which in turn can cause eye twitching.

Don’t smoke

Smoking causes dry eyes which can cause eye twitching.

Use proper lighting

Working or reading in dim light makes it difficult for your eyes to focus and leads to eye fatigue and dry eyes.

Watch your alcohol and caffeine intake

Excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine can cause eye twitching.

Find an outlet for stress

Stress is a cause of eye twitching. Look for healthy ways to reduce your stress levels.