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Why does my eye twitch?

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Updated April 01, 2014

Question: Why does my eye twitch?
One of my eyes has been twitching uncontrollably for the past several days. What causes eye twitching and how do I make it stop?
Answer:

An eye twitch, while annoying, is usually nothing serious. It's sometimes a creepy sensation, to feel your eyelid moving uncontrollably. What often feels like a huge movement, however, usually can't even be detected by your friends. Many people are familiar with involuntary eye twitching. Eye twitching, or myokymia, is an involuntary eyelid muscle contraction that usually affects the lower eyelid. The exact cause of eye twitching is unknown. A twitch sometimes develops during times of increased stress. Eye twitching has also been associated with high caffeine intake, fatigue or excessive squinting. It can also occur after reading or working on a computer for prolonged periods of time.

Eye twitching is usually a sign that you need to take a break and relax. Have you been under unusual stress lately? Have you had a few sleepless nights? Sometimes a twitch will go away following a good night's sleep, but a stubborn twitch may last as long as three weeks. Here are a few common eye twitch triggers:

  • Caffeine or certain medications
  • Fatigue due to lack of restful sleep
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Smoking or alcohol consumption
  • Eyestrain caused by computer use, reading, television, or bright lights
  • Dry eyes
  • Allergies

Eyelid twitches sometimes occur along with an eye infection or an inflammation of the eyelids called blepharitis. If the eye twitching involves both eyes, there is a possibility that you have blephorospasm. This is a chronic condition that is most common in women over 50. Blephorospasm can progress into repeated forceful closing of the eyes. Like most eye twitches, there is no definite cause, but it may be worsened by stress, bright lights, watching too much TV, and fatigue. If both eyes are twitching, it may be a good idea to consult your eye doctor for advice.

A stubborn eye twitch can become extremely annoying rather quickly. To relieve eye twitching, try applying warm compresses to the twitching eye and gently massaging the eyelid with your fingers. A warm compress can simply be a clean wash cloth dampened with warm water. Lay your head back and apply the warm cloth directly to your closed eyelid. For eyelid twitches that last longer than 2 or 3 days, over-the-counter oral or topical (eye drop) antihistamines may offer some relief. Although not a direct treatment, antihistamines slow down the muscle contractions, or twitching, making the twitching much less annoying.

A more violent eye twitching that sometimes involves an entire side of the face is called hemifacial spasm. A hemifacial spasm can become a much more severe twitch. This type of twitching may affect speaking and eating. A hemifacial spasm is usually caused by inflamed facial nerves but it may result from a more serious neurological problem. This type of spasm is often treated with muscle-relaxing injections or medications. If you are concerned that you may have more than a common eyelid twitch, contact an eyecare professional for an evaluation.

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