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Eyelid Twitch: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

What are eyelid twitches?

An eyelid twitch, or myokymia, is a repetitive, involuntary spasm of the eyelid muscles. A twitch usually occurs in the upper lid, but it can occur in both the upper and lower lids. For most people, these spasms are very mild and feel like a gentle tug on the eyelid.

Others may experience a spasm strong enough to force both eyelids to close completely. This is a different condition called blepharospasm. Spasms typically occur every few seconds for a minute or two. Episodes of eyelid twitching are unpredictable. The twitch may occur off and on for several days. Then, you may not experience any twitching for weeks or even months.

The twitches are painless and harmless, but they may bother you. Most spasms will resolve on their own without the need for treatment. In rare cases, eyelid spasms may be an early warning sign of a chronic movement disorder, especially if the spasms are accompanied by other facial twitches or uncontrollable movements.

What causes eyelid twitches?

Eyelid spasms may occur without any identifiable cause. Since they’re rarely a sign of a serious problem, the cause isn’t usually investigated. Nevertheless, eyelid twitches may be caused or made worse by:

  • eye irritation

  • eyelid strain

  • fatigue

  • lack of sleep

  • physical exertion

  • medication side effects

  • stress

  • use of tobacco, or caffeine

If the spasms become chronic, you may have what’s known as “benign essential blepharospasm,” which is the name for chronic and uncontrollable winking or blinking. This condition typically affects both eyes. The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but the following may make spasms worse:

  • blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelid

  • conjunctivitis, or pinkeye

  • dry eyes

  • environmental irritants, such as wind, bright lights, sun, or air pollution

  • fatigue

  • light sensitivity

  • stress

  • too much caffeine

  • smoking

When do eyelid twitches require a visit to the doctor?

Eyelid twitches are rarely serious enough to require emergency medical treatment. However, chronic eyelid spasms may be a symptom of a more serious brain or nervous system disorder.You may need to see your doctor if you’re having chronic eyelid spasms along with any of the following symptoms:

  • Your eye is red, swollen, or has an unusual discharge.

  • Your upper eyelid is drooping.

  • The twitching continues for several weeks.

  • Your eyelid completely closes each time your eyelids twitch.

  • The twitching begins affecting other parts of your face.

How are eyelid twitches treated?

Most eyelid spasms go away without treatment in a few days or weeks. If they don’t go away, you can try to eliminate or decrease potential causes.The most common causes of eyelid twitching are stress, fatigue, and caffeine.

To ease eye twitching, you might want to try the following:

  • Drink less caffeine.

  • Get adequate sleep.

  • Keep your eye surfaces lubricated with over-the-counter artificial tears or eye drops.

  • Apply a warm compress to your eyes when a spasm begins.

How can you prevent eyelid twitches?

If your eyelid spasms are happening more frequently, keep a journal and note when they occur.

Note your intake of caffeine, tobacco as well as your level of stress and how much sleep you’ve been getting in the periods leading up to and during the eyelid twitching.

If you notice that you have more spasms when you aren’t getting enough sleep, try to go to bed 30 minutes to an hour earlier to help ease the strain on your eyelids and reduce your spasms.

This post originally appeared on Healthline.

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