Why Does My Eye Twitch?

October 14, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Ronald D Klug, M.D. contributes to topics such as Comprehensive Ophthalmology.

When your eye twitches on occasion, it’s usually nothing more than a mild annoyance: The twitches aren’t painful, and they tend to disappear on their own. Eye twitching happens when tiny muscles in your eyelid spasm uncontrollably, causing involuntary movements within your upper or lower eyelid.

For most people, eye twitches happen infrequently. But what if you experience them often? Should you be concerned that eye twitching may be a small sign of a bigger problem?

We talked to Ronald D. Klug, M.D., F.A.A.O., an ophthalmologist at Bayshore Medical Center, to learn more about when eye twitching can be a problem and what to do to help your symptoms.

What causes eye twitching

When a muscle in your eyelid spasms, it’s usually a sign that something minor in your life may need to be addressed. These are common causes of eye twitches:

  • feeling tired
  • getting too little sleep
  • consuming caffeine
  • experiencing stress
  • exposing yourself to bright light
  • having dry eyes
  • drinking alcohol
  • smoking

“You may find that you have an eye twitch after staying up too late for a week and drinking extra coffee each morning, but it isn’t always that obvious,” says Dr. Klug. “Sometimes the twitch can be subtle until it gets worse.”

How to alleviate eye twitching

Practicing self-care may help your eyelid spasms to disappear on their own. Try these ideas:

  • put a warm compress on the affected eye for 15 minutes
  • get a good night’s sleep or try to take a nap when you’re feeling drained
  • cut back on caffeine
  • take steps to avoid constant stressful situations
  • incorporate stress-reducing activities, like exercise or mindful breathing, into your daily routine
  • wear sunglasses on sunny days
  • use eyedrops formulated for dry eyes as needed
  • reduce your alcohol intake
  • quit smoking

When eye twitching may be concerning

Sometimes, an eye twitch graduates from harmless to bothersome and worrisome. Rare forms of eye twitching may cause one or both eyes to close involuntarily with each spasm. These forms of eyelid twitching may also cause spasms in other facial muscles. If you experience a problem like this, call your ophthalmologist for an appointment.

“An ophthalmologist can help determine whether your eye twitches are a persistent form of the harmless variety or something else,” says Dr. Klug. “If you’re diagnosed with the rare type of eye twitching that can cause the eyes to shut involuntarily, there are treatments to manage the condition – like medication, Botox injections and surgery – so seeing an ophthalmologist can certainly help to improve your situation.”

Occasionally, an ophthalmologist may refer you to a neurologist for a consultation. In rare cases, eye twitching may be a symptom of a neurological condition, such as Bell’s palsy, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome or multiple sclerosis. The involuntary twitches may also be a side effect of medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy.

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.