Here's Why Your Eye Is Twitching—and How To Make It Go Away

Although eye twitches are annoying, they are rarely serious.

A twitch in your eye can be incredibly irritating and distracting. But luckily, an eye twitch is usually not painful, and very rarely is it cause for concern. "Basically, it's an overstimulation of the eye muscles," said Donny Suh, MD, associate professor at the Truhlsen Eye Institute of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

This overstimulation results in an involuntary contraction of the muscles, which manifests as that slight twitch or tic in your eye. Here is what you need to know about eye twitch and how to make it go away.

Types of Eye Twitching

There are different symptoms, or types, of eye twitches you may experience. Some common symptoms of eye twitch include:

  • Repeated uncontrollable twitching or spasms of your eyelid (most often the upper lid)
  • Light sensitivity (sometimes, this is the cause of the twitching)
  • Blurry vision (sometimes)

If uncontrolled twitching, or spasms, begin, they may continue off and on for a few days before they disappear. This type of twitching is what affects most people.

However, in more severe contractions, the eyelid completely closes. This form of eyelid twitching is called blepharospasm. It can be very uncomfortable and lasts much longer than the more common type of eyelid twitch.

In some cases, eye twitching persists for a more extended period and becomes bothersome. This is called chronic eye twitching (CET). Women experience CET at three times the rate of men. CET tends to develop more often in cold weather, and a defect of facial nerves may be responsible for the condition.

Causes

There are a few possible eye twitch causes, and most of them are easily remedied. Two of the most common? Stress and lack of sleep. Too much caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine can also lead to eye twitching.

An eye twitch can also be triggered by dry eye, which can itself be caused by a number of different factors."It can be [caused by] an autoimmune disease, but more commonly it occurs with aging or medications," said Dr. Suh. Antihistamines, antidepressants, and nasal decongestants are common culprits.

Eye twitch may also be a symptom of certain eye conditions, including glaucoma, blepharitis (an inflammation of the eyelids), uveitis (another type of eye inflammation), or a corneal abrasion.

The most common causes of eye twitching include:

  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Caffeine
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Migraine headache medication

How To Stop Eye Twitching

Lifestyle changes can often remedy an eye twitch, but it's helpful to pinpoint the exact cause. If you suspect that stress or fatigue is to blame, make sure you get plenty of shut-eye, practice good sleep hygiene, and try relaxation techniques (such as meditation or yoga). Limiting your consumption of caffeine and alcohol (or abstaining completely) could also make a difference. If the twitch is related to dry eye, over-the-counter artificial tears may help ease symptoms.

Dr. Suh also stressed the importance of limiting your time looking at electronic screens. Dr. Suh recommended giving your eyes a rest every 10 minutes. To relax the eye muscles, close your eyes briefly, then look at a distant object. You should take similar breaks when reading books or any time you're focusing your eyes intensely.

"This would just take 10 to 15 seconds, so having no time is not a good excuse," said Dr. Suh.

The following steps can help stop eye twitching:

  • Getting more sleep
  • Drinking less caffeine
  • Consuming less alcohol
  • Lubricating your eyes with eye drops

When To See a Healthcare Provider

"Twitches are typically benign and should only last for a few weeks," said Dr. Suh, adding that a lingering eye twitch could lead to more anxiety, which prevents it from going away. "The problem is that once you develop these twitches, they tend to cause a vicious cycle."

However, if an eye twitch lingers for a long time, or if you have double vision, a pupil that becomes irregular-looking, or facial contractions outside the eyelid, Dr. Suh recommended seeing a specialist immediately. In rare cases, eye twitching can be an early sign of a more serious condition, including Bell's palsy, multiple sclerosis (MS), or Tourette syndrome.

You should see a healthcare provider or eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) in the following scenarios:

  • Your eye twitching does not go away within one week
  • The twitching completely closes your eyelid
  • The twitching involves other parts of your face
  • You have redness, swelling, or a discharge from your eye
  • Your upper eyelid is drooping

A Quick Review

Eye twitching is caused by overstimulation of the eye muscles—which has several causes. It's generally harmless and not painful. Still, an eye twitch can be annoying and distracting. The steps outlined above should help you identify possible causes of your eye twitch and remedies. However, if your twitching persists, grows more severe, or spreads, you should seek medical care.

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  2. Lee SY, Lai SC. Clinical and electrophysiological analysis of chronic eyelid twitching. Acta Neurol Taiwan. 2017;26(4):177-183.

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