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Ask The Expert

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What are twitching eyelids?

Twitching eyelids is also known as Blepharospasm and is a continual, involuntary spasm of the eyelid muscles. A twitch of the eyelid can occur in both the upper and lower eyelids but mostly happens in the upper eyelid. For the majority of the people, they may experience a mild twitching as if there is a general tug on the eyelid, whereas some experience a spasm strong enough that it can force one to close their eyes completely.  For others, no symptoms are felt.

Spasm mostly occur every few seconds to up to a minute or two. The twitch may occur off and on for several days; when this happens, you may not feel twitching for weeks and sometimes even months before having another relapse of the symptoms.

The twitching is not painful, and neither is it harmful, but it may cause irritation. In some cases, early twitching may be a sign of a chronic movement disorder.

What causes the eyelid to twitch?

Eyelid spasms may be caused or made worse by:

  • Stress
  • The overuse of alcohol, tobacco, or even caffeine
  • Lack of sleep
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Having an eye infection
  • Feeling tired
  • Strain on one or even both of the eye

If the spasms become severe and are happening all the time, you may have a condition called, ‘Benign Essential Blepharospasm’, this is the name for chronic and uncontrollable eyelid movement. This type of condition affects both the eyes. The cause of this condition is unknown, but may be made worse by:

  • A dry eye
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • High levels of stress
  • Inflammation of the eyelid
  • The wind, bright lights, the sun, pollution

Complications of twitching eyelids

Twitching eyelids can be a symptom of serious brain and nerve disorders, but this is very rare. The nerve and brain disorders that may cause eyelid twitches include:

  • Bell ’s Palsy, also known as Facial Palsy, is an illness that may cause one side of your face to droop downwards.
  • Cervical Dystonia, which is also known as, Spasmodic Torticollis. This causes the neck to randomly spasm and the head to twist into uncomfortable positions.
  • Dystonia - This may cause an unexpected muscle spasm and will affect body parts causing them to twist or contort.
  • Parkinson’s disease will cause trembling limbs, balance problems and may have result in difficulty speaking.
  • Tourette’s syndrome is characterized by movements and verbal tics.

Prevention of eyelid twitching

If twitching of the eyelids often happens or most of the time, one should note down when they occur and for how long, as a diary of this will need to be kept. One should also keep a food diary in which they record when last they consumed alcohol as well caffeine-containing foods and drinks together with stress levels. Keep a record of how much sleep you have been getting in the times leading up to and during the eyelid twitching.

If a person notices that they have had more spams when they are not getting enough of sleep, try to go to bed 30 minutes or an hour earlier than usual. This will help ease the pain and strain on your spasms.

Treatment for eyelid twitching

For most people that suffer from eyelid twitching it usually goes away on its own without taking any treatment. If this condition does not go away, then you need to try and get rid or eliminate possible causes. The common causes of the eyelid twitching are stress, tiredness, and caffeine.
To ease this, you might want to try this;

  • Get the right amount of sleep
  • Stay away from caffeine
  • Make use of natural eye drops

Botox toxin injections are sometimes taken to treat benign essential Blepharospasm for just a few months. But when this wears off, you might need more injections.

Surgery may also take place to remove some of the muscles and the nerves from the eyelids. The surgery can also treat more severe cases of Benign Essential Blepharospasm. One can also try physical therapy that can be useful for training the muscles in the face to relax.

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