Why is your eyelid twitching? Should you be worried?
Your doctor may call it blepharospasm, but you just call it annoying. Why does your eyelid, usually the top one, flutter every few seconds for no reason? Should you be concerned?
“Twitches are usually harmless and often go away on their own,” says Dr. Michael Weisberg, an ophthalmologist with Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, Ill. However, he cautions, sometimes eyelid twitching may be a sign of a more serious condition. He outlines several factors and signs below.
Lifestyle issues including fatigue, lack of sleep, stress, alcohol use, tobacco, poor diet and caffeine. “If you notice your eyelids twitching and these are factors in your life, try to adjust and see if the twitching alleviates on its own,” says Dr. Weisberg.
Eye irritation of the surface of your eye (cornea) or of the membranes around your eye (conjunctiva), like dry eye or blepharitis, can cause the eyelid to twitch.
Benign essential blepharospasm, a movement disorder, also called dystonia, affects the muscles around the eye. Women are affected twice as much as men, and it’s likely caused by a combination of factors including fatigue, stress and environmental factors like bright light, wind and air pollution.
“This is a condition that typically shows up in mid-to-later life and starts with nonstop blinking or eye irritation,” says Dr. Weisberg. “It’s a progressive disorder that can cause you to become more sensitive to light and experience blurred vision and facial spasms. People can have real difficulty keeping their eyes open, which can affect their daily life. Treatment sometimes requires injections of Botox to relieve the spasms.”
A Hemifacial spasm involves both the muscles around your eyelid and your mouth and usually affects just one side of the face. While rare, it is typically caused by a small artery pressing on a facial nerve. “It can start as a simple eyelid twitch that then forces the eyelid closed and can affect the other facial muscles,” says Dr. Weisberg.
Signs, signs, everywhere there are signs.
Eye twitching is also a sign of other medical conditions including:
- Corneal abrasion
- Dry eyes(decreased production of tears)
- Blepharitis (a common condition that causes the eyelids to become swollen)
- Light sensitivity
- Pink eye/conjunctivitis
Very rarely, eye twitching is sign of a brain or nerve disorder, such as:
When should you see a doctor? Dr. Weisberg advises to make an appointment with your eye doctor for evaluation and treatment options if:
- The twitching lasts for more than one week
- The twitches cause your eyelid to close completely
- Spasms include more than just your eyelids involving other muscles of your face (mouth and cheek)
- You have redness, swelling, pain or discharge in or around your eyes
- Your notice your eyelids are drooping
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”