The truth about your eye twitch
It’s annoying. It’s persistent. And everyone has had one at some point in time. What is it?
It’s the annoying eye twitch. And while sometimes the cause is obvious, the majority of time, it comes out of nowhere, and the underlying cause is unknown.
But is it cause for concern? And what’s to blame for that pesky twitch?
- Stress. This is the number one reason your eye is twitching. In most cases, a twitch caused by stress resolves on its own when the stressful situation ends. Tips to destress like meditating or exercising often help alleviate that annoying twitch.
- Not getting enough sleep? This could cause your eye to spasm. As expected, getting more sleep is the go-to treatment option for this type of eye twitch.
- Caffeine or alcohol. Stimulants have long been thought to cause an eye twitch – especially when they are consumed in excess. If individuals have recently changed their caffeine and/or alcohol habits, experts believe this is often the cause. Cutting back can often help that twitch subside.
- Magnesium helps keep your muscles functioning properly, so a deficiency can often be the cause of an eye spasm. Other signs of low magnesium levels include upset stomach and a change in appetite. If this is the cause, your doctor may recommend a supplement to help reduce twitching and ensure you are getting the recommended amount of the important nutrient.
- Dry eyes. Dry eyes can result from a variety of factors including contact lenses, medications and even age – all of which can lead to an annoying twitch. An easy fix is artificial tears.
- Bright lights, wind, physical exertion or eye strain. All these factors can cause a spasm, but often, these twitches are temporary and subside when the cause is no longer present.
“I put eye twitching in the category of problems I refer to as ‘a nuisance, not a threat,’” says Dr. Lazar. “Still, individuals should see a health care professional when twitching doesn’t resolve after a few weeks, when your eyes completely close with each twitch, if you notice discharge, redness or swelling in your eyes, if your eyes droop or if you notice twitching in other parts of your face or body.”
Some treatment options Dr. Lazar recommends for people with an annoying eye twitch include:
- A warm compress to the affected eyelid
- A gentle massage of the affected eyelid
- A reduction in caffeine intake or complete cessation
- Stress reduction
- An increase in daily sleep
In addition, two over-the-counter remedies for twitchy eyes are antihistamines and lubricating eye drops. For more extreme cases, there are invasive treatments like Botox injections or surgical removal of the offending eye muscles, says Dr. Lazar.
“While an eye twitch is typically just an annoyance, it is also important to note that in some cases, there are brain and nervous system problems which have eye twitches as a symptom,” says Dr. Lazar. “They include Bell’s palsy, cervical dystonia, general dystonia, multiple sclerosis and Tourette’s syndrome. These conditions are always accompanied by other fairly dramatic symptoms, so if an annoying twitch is the only sign that something’s wrong, it is likely related to a more benign common cause like stress or fatigue.”
About the Author
Jackie Goldman is a public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. Previously, she was the co-managing editor of Advocate health enews. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.