Most people have experienced an eye twitch or spasm at some point in their lifetime.
This involuntary blinking, closing, or movement of the eye is often caused by stress, tiredness, or excessive consumption of caffeine. In some cases, eye twitching can be a sign of an underlying condition.
Understanding the different types of eye twitches and spasms and their causes can help you to identify whether a consultation with your healthcare provider is needed or whether the twitching will go away on its own.
What Is Eye Twitching?
Eye twitching is an eyelid spasm or eye muscle movement that occurs involuntarily. It is also called blepharospasm.
It is common for the eyes to twitch occasionally, often due to stress, fatigue, and caffeine consumption.
But, in some cases, it can be caused by underlying conditions such as irritation of the cornea.
The risk of benign blepharospasm (increased involuntary contraction of the muscles of the eye) increases as a person ages.
According to studies, it is more common in females and occurs more in people aged 50 and above.
Types of Eye Twitches
There are three main types of eyelid twitches or spasms:
- General eyelid spasm
- Benign essential blepharospasm
- Hemifacial spasm
General Eyelid Spasm
A general eyelid spasm (also known as an eyelid twitch or tic) is a common spasm that causes the eyelid to move or close quickly and briefly.
This type of spasm doesn’t affect your vision.
General eyelid spasms are usually minor and go away on their own within a few days without treatment.
The most common causes of general eyelid spasms are tiredness, stress, and excessive consumption of caffeine and/or alcohol.
Because of the causes of general eyelid spasms, rest, adequate sleep, stress reduction, and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake are the most effective strategies for stopping general eyelid spasms.
Benign Essential Blepharospasm
Benign essential blepharospasm is when one or both of the eyelids close involuntarily.
Unlike a general eyelid spasm, this spasm can last longer, up to a few hours, limiting or completely blocking your vision. Other muscles in the face may also be affected.
This type of spasm is the major symptom of blepharospasm, a movement disorder that causes involuntary and frequent blinking, twitching, squeezing, and closing of the eyelids.
The condition is most common among the female gender who are in their forties to sixties, but the condition can also run in families.
Other symptoms of blepharospasm can include:
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Difficulty doing everyday tasks, like driving, reading, or walking
- Dry eyes
- Eye irritation that’s worsened by wind, pollution, sunlight, and other irritants
- Difficulty keeping eyes open
- Vision impairment
A hemifacial spasm occurs when muscles on one side of your face tighten (including the muscles along your cheek, mouth, and neck), causing spasms that begin near your eye and then affect other parts of your face.
Similar to benign essential blepharospasm, a hemifacial spasm can last much longer than a general eyelid spasm.
Symptoms of Eye Twitching
The major symptoms of eye twitching are:
- Twitching or spasm around the eyes
- Facial spasms
However, additional symptoms can also occur, including:
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Repeated involuntary twitching or spasms of the upper eyelid
- Blurred vision
Keep in mind that these symptoms can also indicate other conditions, which is why it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider when you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they don’t resolve on their own immediately.
Causes of Eye Twitching
There are many possible causes of eye twitching, depending on the type of twitch or spasm present.
Some of these underlying causes may warrant medical attention, which is why consulting with a medical provider can help determine the right course of treatment for your symptoms.
Possible causes of eye twitching include:
- Lack of sleep
- Overconsumption of caffeine and/or alcohol
- Abnormality in the nerve that connects to the facial muscles
- Irritation of the cornea (surface of the eye)
- Irritation of the conjunctiva (membranes lining the eyelids)
How to Stop Eye Twitching
General eyelid spasms usually go away on their own.
Getting plenty of rest, avoiding stress, and limiting alcohol and caffeine can help to stop general eyelid spasms within a day or two.
On the other hand, benign essential and blepharospasm and hemifacial spasms usually don’t resolve on their own. They need to be treated by a healthcare professional.
There are several treatment options for benign essential blepharospasm and hemifacial spasms.
Your doctor will know the best treatment to target the type of eye twitch that affects you.
Making an appointment with your healthcare provider or ophthalmologist is essential to getting a diagnosis of the underlying cause of your eye twitching.
To make a diagnosis, you will undergo a detailed eye exam and may also have a physical exam.
A common treatment option for benign essential blepharospasm and hemifacial spasms is an injection of Botox (botulinum toxin).
This injection works to relax the muscles and muscles around the eyes and face.
After the injection, spasms can disappear as early as one day after treatment but can take as long as two weeks to provide relief. Each injection can keep spasms at bay for about three months.
If Botox injections don’t provide relief for your blepharospasms, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication.
Drug treatments can also be used for the treatment of hemifacial spasms, but most people find that Botox injections work well.
Though less common, surgery is another option for blepharospasms and hemifacial spasms.
When To See a Medical Provider
It’s important to be evaluated by your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing an eye spasm or twitching that doesn’t go away on its own or if you’re experiencing other symptoms, such as photophobia or dry eyes.
Additional symptoms that warrant medical attention include:
- Twitching that completely closes your eyelid
- Twitching that includes other parts of your face or body
- Redness, swelling, or discharge from the eye
- Drooping upper eyelid
- A change in vision
Speaking with a healthcare provider can help you to identify the underlying cause of your twitching and which treatment options are right for you.
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Frequently Asked Questions
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Essential blepharospasm. (2010).
Eyelid Spasms (Eye Twitching or Eye Twitch). (n.d.).
Eyelid twitch. (2020).
What Is an Eyelid Spasm or Twitching Eyelid? (2022).