It starts almost imperceptibly; you may notice increased blinking or eye irritation, followed by eyelid twitching. You wonder, what’s wrong with my eye?
It’s a common experience with an uncommon name: Blepharospasm happens when one or both of your eyelids randomly twitch. While no one knows for sure the biomechanics of why these twitches occur, some common triggers include:
- Alcohol or caffeine intake
- Bright light
- Medications, especially those used to treat epilepsy or psychosis
“Blepharospasms (also known as eyelid myokymia) are more common than we think, but most episodes don’t last very long,” says Dr. Jennifer Tam, an optometrist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “Luckily, it is more noticeable to the person being affected and barely noticeable by people around them, in most cases. I get them personally and although they can be annoying, they often subside as spontaneously as they appeared.”
Although they are typically painless and short-lived, in rare cases, eye twitching can indicate brain or nervous system disorders such as:
- Bell’s palsy, a temporary paralysis of the facial nerves
- Dystonia, a movement disorder in which your muscles involuntarily contract
- Multiple sclerosis, an immune disorder affecting the central nervous system
- Tourette’s syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes repetitive movements or sounds
Excessive eye twitching can dry the eyes and cause them to be more sensitive to light, so talk with your doctor if you feel you are experiencing eye twitching too frequently, or if the twitches affect other parts of the face or body.
For most of us, the remedy for eye twitching is to take a break. Here are a few tips to help stop the twitch:
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake
- Reduce stress (try yoga, meditation or exercise)
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, and aim for six to 10 hours of sleep each night
- Wear sunglasses when outside during the day
- Limit screen time, including computers and mobile phones
“Oftentimes, a cold compress on the eye speeds resolution, and just finding that personal moment to relax and breathe can also do the trick. On rare occasions, persistent blepharospasms can be treated by Botox injections to help with the symptoms of the eyelid spasm and possible facial spasm that can come with it in more severe cases,” says Dr. Tam.