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An eye twitch is a type of abnormal, involuntary blinking of the eyelid. Most people experience the occasional twitch of their eye.
When someone has a twitch, it is their eyelid that twitches and not their actual eyeball.
Eye twitches are not always due to an underlying medical condition. There are certain factors that can cause an occasional twitch. (Learn More)
Common Temporary Causes of Eye Twitching
There are certain factors that might cause eye twitching. These may include:
- This is likely the most common reason for eye twitches.
- Eye strain. Straining the eyes, especially related to use of tablets, computers, or smartphones, is a common cause of twitching.
- Not getting enough sleep may contribute to eye twitching.
- Caffeine is a type of stimulant that may trigger eye twitching.
- Dry eyes. Dry eye is not uncommon, especially among people who work on computers, wear contact lenses, are over age 50, or wear contact lenses. A person’s eyes may be dry if the twitching is accompanied by a dry or gritty feeling.
- Some people experience an eye twitch when they consume alcohol.
- Allergies can cause swelling, itching, and watering. People may rub their eyes to alleviate allergy symptoms, causing a histamine release into the tear film and eyelid tissues. This could result in eye twitching.
- Nutrition problems. Eyelid spasms may be triggered by certain nutritional deficiencies, such as magnesium deficiency.
Many medical conditions can also contribute to eye twitches.
Benign Essential Blepharospasm
In the U.S., it is estimated that at least 50,000 people have benign essential blepharospasm, which involves eye twitching. Every year, approximately 2,000 new cases are diagnosed.
This condition is characterized by spasms of the eyelids and abnormal blinking. It is a form of dystonia, which is a kind of movement disorder that involves rhythmic shaking, uncontrolled muscle tensing, and other involuntary movements.
The symptoms of this condition usually begin in mid to late adulthood. Over time, the symptoms worsen gradually. People may first notice dry eyes, increased blinking frequency, and irritated eyes that become worse due to air pollution, sunlight, wind, and other irritants.
The symptoms might start in one eye, but both eyes are eventually affected. Severe vision impairment is possible as the condition progresses due to people finding it hard to keep their eyes open.
Botox is the primary course of treatment for this condition. It may help to reduce the severity and frequency of the twitching.
Brain damage that occurs as a result of stroke or inflammation may lead to eyelid twitching. It is most common when the damage affects certain brain components, such as the basal ganglia, thalamus, and brainstem.
A stroke occurs when the brain stops getting blood flow. It only takes a few minutes for the brain cells to start dying as a result of no blood flow.
There are two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are the more common type. They occur when a brain blood vessel gets blocked by a blood clot. The hemorrhagic type occurs due to bleeding in the brain because of a broke blood vessel.
A stroke may cause permanent or temporary disabilities. These may include:
- Difficulties with thinking or memory loss.
- Strange sensations or pain in different areas throughout the body.
- Muscle movement loss or paralysis.
- Emotional issues or behavioral changes.
- Trouble swallowing or talking.
By 2020, it is estimated that in the U.S., about 1 million people will be living with this condition. Every year, about 60,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
This condition affects the nervous system, and it is a progressive disease. It affects movement, and it can cause eye twitching.
Initially, the symptoms may not be very noticeable. People might have a very mild tremor in a single hand that they do not think means much.
As the condition progresses, the symptoms become more frequent and severe. The tremor can worsen and even occur when someone is at rest. Their muscles may become rigid, and their balance and posture can become impaired.
People with Parkinson’s disease may notice a change in their speech and writing abilities. They can lose automatic movements and experience a slowdown in their movement.
This condition results from the brain’s nerve cells dying or breaking down gradually. It is not known why this happens. As the nerve cells continue to die and break down, the symptoms of the condition become worse.
It is believed that certain environmental triggers and a person’s genes may play a role in the development of this condition.
Bell’s palsy results from facial nerve trauma or damage. It causes a temporary paralysis of the face, and sometimes, it can cause eye twitching.
This condition affects the seventh cranial nerve. It causes a disruption of the facial nerve so the messages sent from the brain cannot get to the facial muscles. The result is facial paralysis or weakness.
The facial nerve is inflamed, swollen, or compressed when Bell’s palsy is present. It is not known how this damage occurs. Scientists believe that viral infections may trigger the condition. They believe that the infection triggers inflammation and swelling of this nerve.
Not all cases will require treatment, but steroids might be helpful for some people. There are cases that resolve on their own within two weeks without any intervention. For other cases, the person may not fully recover from the effects of this condition.
In the U.S., approximately 1 million people are affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). This is a central nervous system disease that is also categorized as an autoimmune disease. There is no cure for MS.
When someone has multiple sclerosis, the myelin that covers nerve fibers is attacked by the person’s immune system. This can disrupt communication between the body and the brain. Over time, permanent nerve deterioration or damage can result.
Symptoms of affected movement are not uncommon with this condition. Twitching, electric shock sensations, weakness or numbness, and tremors can occur. People might have an unsteady gait and reduced coordination in addition to eye twitching.
People might also experience other eye issues, especially those affecting their vision. It is possible to have blurry or double vision. Some people develop a complete or partial loss of vision.
There are other symptoms people can experience with multiple sclerosis.
- Pain or tingling in various areas of the body
- Slurred speech
- Sexual dysfunction
- Problem with the function or control of the bladder and bowel
Addressing the Underlying Causes of Eye Twitching
Knowing more about what might cause the eyes to twitch is important to get to the bottom of the cause. While certain treatments can help to stop the eye from twitching, the underlying issue must ultimately be addressed.
Eye Twitching: 8 Causes and Remedies. All About Vision.
Eye Twitching. Cedars-Sinai Hospital.
Benign Essential Blepharospasm. Genetics Home Reference.
Benign Essential Blepharospasm. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center.
Statistics. Parkinson’s Foundation.
Stroke. Mayo Clinic.
Bell’s Palsy Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Multiple Sclerosis. Cleveland Clinic.