We’ve all felt a muscle spasm from time to time. Maybe it’s a twitchy finger, maybe it’s a painful spasm in the back of your leg in the night. But what about when it’s your eyelid?
A twitchy eyelid is quite common, and almost always benign, temporary and rarely a cause for concern.
What causes eyelid twitching?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, irritation or dryness of the eyes, a lack of sleep, high levels of stress and too much caffeine are some of the main causes of a jumpy eyelid. This is sometimes referred to as eyelid myokymia.
Use of alcohol or tobacco, eyelid strain, physical exertion and side effects from medication can also either make your eyelid twitch or make the twitching worse. When the twitching is caused by these external factors, it almost always goes away on its own and does not require medical attention.
However, there are also a couple different medical conditions that could cause eyelid twitching.
Benign essential blepharospasm is a rare neurological condition in which the affected person experiences abnormal blinking or eyelid twitching. The spasms are intermittent with this condition, and symptoms usually begin later in life.
Benign essential blepharospasm may begin in one eye, but the symptoms usually progress to the point of affecting both eyes. In some cases, individuals may find it hard to keep their eyes open as the condition progresses and it can lead to vision impairment.
Benign essential blepharospasm is a type of dystonia — a group of movement disorders — and it can spread to other parts of a patient’s facial muscles and affect their tongue and jaw. The cause of benign essential blepharospasm is unknown.
Hemifacial spasm is another condition that can cause eyelid twitching. This condition is a nervous system disorder in which muscles on just one side of the face twitch involuntarily. While there is sometimes no identifiable cause, hemifacial spasm is most often caused by a blood vessel touching a facial nerve, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In rare cases, brain and nerve disorders such as Bell’s palsy, Tourette syndrome, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis could cause eye twitching along with other symptoms.
Treatment for eyelid twitching
Most often, eyelid twitching will go away on its own after some rest. Decreasing caffeine intake and managing stress levels can also be helpful if those are the causes. Eye drops or medication may help if the eye is irritated.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, you should see a doctor if twitching that lasts more than a few days or there is significant swelling, redness or discharge and you experience light-headedness or worsened vision. In some rare cases, if the twitching is seriously affecting quality of life, a doctor may recommend a myectomy — the surgical removal of the eyelid or some muscles around the eye.
Nick Beare is a Toronto-based freelance writer. He can be reached here.
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