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An eye twitch is characterised by an uncontrollable eyelid tic or spasm.

A woman holding her eye closed

At some point in their lives, most people will experience some form of blepharospasm (the medical term for eye twitching). Causes of minor eye twitching are frequently lifestyle related: eye twitching can be linked to stress, lack of sleep, stimulants like caffeine, and alcohol use, among others.

Benign essential eye twitching describes a condition in which chronic spasms of both eyelids occur, oftentimes without an exact known cause, but this type of eye twitching can occur in conjunction with dry eyes, pink eye and other eye conditions.

More rarely, eye twitching may have neurological causes, such as Tourette’s syndrome or Parkinson’s disease.

What are its symptoms?

Eye twitching symptoms include:

  • Uncontrollable blinking or involuntary spasms of the eyelid, usually for a few minutes at a time, but symptoms may also last for hours. The associated eyelid closure will last longer than an average blink.
  • Contractions of the eye muscles and neighbouring facial structures. This may translate to spasms that radiate into the cheeks, nose and neck.
  • Sensitivity to bright light.

How is it diagnosed?

Eye twitching usually resolves on its own over the course of a few days, but it may take several weeks. However, if it doesn’t seem to be getting better it’s important to consult a doctor.

Also seek treatment if the tics are affecting any other part of your face, if you have difficulty fully opening your eye or if you have any other eye-related symptoms such as inflammation of the lid, drooping or discharge. Your doctor may conduct tests to identify any underlying condition that may be contributing to the twitch or refer you to a neurologist for further testing.

What are your treatment options?

Where no specific cause can be identified and addressed, eye twitching treatment may rely on medications that act on the nervous system, tranquilising drugs or the use of Botox injections to create a temporary localised paralysis of the twitching muscles.

In severe cases that do not respond to any other form of treatment, surgery to the muscles and some of the nerves associated with the closure of the eyelid may be recommended. Statistics indicate that this type of surgery may be beneficial in up to 85% of patients suffering from essential blepharospasm.

Can it be prevented?

As not much is understood about its development and causative factors, eye twitching prevention is not always possible.

However, lifestyle factors that have been known to contribute towards it can be managed. This may mean limiting the intake of caffeine or alcohol, implementing stress-reduction strategies, getting enough rest and taking note of anything else that may lead to eye twitching and making the necessary lifestyle adjustments to avoid these things.

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by physician Dr Thomas Blake in December 2015