Lifestyle Considerations: How Do I Stop My Eye from Twitching?
Almost everyone has experienced eye twitching – or, more accurately, eyelid twitching. The medical term for this uncomfortable sensation is eyelid myokymia or also blepharospasms. While they are rarely seen by other people, they can feel very noticeable to those experiencing them. Despite the fact that eye twitches are incredibly common and generally harmless, they can still be extremely irritating and distract you from getting on with your every life. As such, we’ve put together this guide on eye twitches, from what causes them to how to get them to stop.
Eye twitching: the basics
The most common form of eyelid twitching is when the lower eyelid of one eye starts to jump, flicker or quiver sporadically and uncontrollably, usually every few seconds for a minute or two. Sometimes the upper eyelid can twitch rather than the lower eyelid. Both eyes can be affected, but not usually at the same time. With eye twitching, the symptoms are very unpredictable: you may feel spasms just once or twice, or they may come and go for a day or two.
What causes eye twitching?
The main muscles around the eye that are involved in eyelid twitching are called the levator palpebrae superioris, which raises your eyelid, and the orbicularis oculi, which closes your eyelid. These muscles are thought to twitch if the nerve cells (neurons) that supply them misfire. However when the problem lasts longer than a few days or weeks, or when it keeps recurring, eye twitching can be a sign of a medical condition. One of these conditions is a type of blepharospasm called benign essential blepharospasm. This is fairly uncommon but it can begin to seriously affect your quality of life as it causes you to blink far more than normal and could develop into your eyelids becoming squeezed shut. Blepharospasm can also run in families, and there is a theory that it is linked to a genetic problem affecting part of the brain called the basal ganglia.
Lifestyle causes of eye twitching
If you experience occasional, short-lived eyelid twitching, one of the following lifestyle factors is likely to be behind it:
Situations that put you under pressure are generally considered to be among the most common causes of eyelid twitching. In one study, researchers investigated eyelid myokymia in medical students and found it was most common when the students were studying for exams and just before taking exams.i They also discovered that the rate at which they experienced eyelid twitching increased the longer they studied, and that female students were affected more frequently than males.
Lack of sleep
Not getting enough sleep is considered another leading cause of eyelid twitching. This may be because the muscles around your eyes are sensitive and need regular relaxation. Not getting enough sleep may also overstimulate your sympathetic nervous system, which controls many of the body’s involuntary activities. As a result, the muscles that control your eyelids can start to spasm, and the more tired you get, the worse the twitching can become.
When your eyes, and the muscles around them, are working very hard, it can lead to eye strain and eye twitching. This can explain why some people find their eyelids start to spasm when they use digital screens for prolonged periods. Understanding how to prevent eye strain might be a good first step towards stopping your eye twitches for good.
Caffeine and alcohol
If you’re predisposed to eyelid twitching, there’s a chance anything that stimulates your nervous system will make the nerves and muscles around your eyelids hyperactive, making the muscles twitch. Caffeine and alcohol can stimulate the nervous system because they trigger the release of certain chemicals. This may explain why your eye might twitch after you’ve had a night out at the pub or when you’ve been drinking lots of coffee in a day.
An infection that causes inflammation in the eyelid called blepharitis is another possible cause of eyelid twitching. Other symptoms of blepharitis include sore and itchy eyelids, eyelids that look swollen, crusty or greasy, a burning or gritty sensation in your eyes and increased light sensitivity. Blepharitis isn’t usually serious and can be treated by practising good eye hygiene.
How to stop your eyes from twitching
Most cases of mild eyelid twitching will resolve themselves within a day or two. But there are certain things you can do to try to stop them or prevent them from reoccurring:
Avoid stress and make time for regular relaxation. Discover more in our guide to self-help for stress.
Reduce your intake of caffeine, coffee, non-herbal tea, caffeinated soft drinks and chocolate.
Get plenty of sleep
Take regular breaks from using your computer, tablet or smartphone to avoid eye strain
Try using hydrating eye drops.
Apply a warm compress to the affected eye as warmth can help relax the muscles. If a warm compress isn’t effective, try a cold compress.
Certain nutritional supplements are also sometimes recommended to help relieve eyelid twitching, including magnesium and vitamin B12. However, at the moment there’s a lack of reliable clinical evidence to suggest either may be effective.
Nutrients to consider
Alongside lifestyle changes, there may be evidence to suggest that nutrient deficiencies might be causing eye twitching. One Indian study found that vitamin B12 deficiency was linked to blepharospasm.ii What’s more, one symptom of a magnesium deficiency is muscle spasms. This is because magnesium plays a key role in normal nerve and muscle functions. As a result, it might be worth trying to integrate more of these two nutrients, either through diet or supplementation.
Medical treatments for eyelid twitching
If self-help measures don’t help or if the twitches in your eyelid become more severe or more frequent, you may need to see your GP or an eye specialist. While there aren’t any treatments for mild eyelid twitching, if it becomes severe it can be treated with a surgical procedure called a myectomy or by having Botox injections, which can help stop the muscle contractions. In addition, the NHS recommends that you should also see a GP if your twitch lasts for more than two weeks, if you have a twitch in more than one place, or if you think a prescription medicine you’re taking may be causing the problem. It’s also a good idea to get help from a medical professional if you have any accompanying symptoms such as discharge from the affected eye, eye redness or swelling, vision problems, if you feel lightheaded or if your eyelid starts to droop.
For even more advice on how to keep your eyes healthy, feel free to visit our dedicated Vision Health Hub.
Hadzic, S., Kukic, I., Zvornicanin, J. The Prevalence of Eyelid Myokymia in Medical Students. British Journal of Medicine and Medical Research. ISSN: 2231-0614, Vol.: 14, Issue.: 6. Available online: http://www.journalrepository.org/media/journals/BJMMR_12/2016/Mar/Zvornicanin1462016BJMMR24910.pdf
Edvardsson, B., Persson, S. Blepharospasm and vitamin B12 deficiency. Neurol India. [serial online] 2010 [cited 2018 Nov 29];58:320-1. Available online: http://www.neurologyindia.com/text.asp?2010/58/2/320/63787