What is an Eye Twitch?
An eye twitch is a repetitive and involuntary spasm or movement of the eyelid muscles. It can affect the lower or upper eyelid and may occur in one or both eyes. Eye twitches are usually harmless and self-limiting, meaning they resolve independently without treatment.
Types of Eye Twitching
Eye twitching can be a source of mild annoyance or extreme discomfort. Knowing the types of eye twitches and what they mean is important. Understanding the cause of your eye twitching can help you seek proper treatment and relief. Let's explore the different types of eye twitching and their possible causes.
Myokymia is the most common type of eye twitching. It is a benign condition that involves involuntary contractions of the eyelid muscles, causing the eyelid to twitch or flutter. Myokymia usually occurs in one eye and is triggered by stress, fatigue, or caffeine intake. It typically resolves on its own within a few days.
Benign Essential Blepharospasm
Benign essential blepharospasm is a rare neurological condition that causes involuntary eyelid spasms, which can progress to involuntary spasms of other facial muscles. It usually starts with eye twitching and can progress to involuntary eyelid closure, making it difficult to see. Essential blepharospasm is a progressive condition that requires ongoing treatment and management.
Hemifacial spasm is a rare condition that causes involuntary muscle contractions on one side of the face, including the eyelid muscles. It usually starts with twitching the lower eyelid and can spread to other parts of the face, such as the cheek or mouth. The hemifacial spasm can be caused by an artery pressing on the facial nerve, which controls the muscles of the face.
What Causes Eye Twitching?
Eye twitching can be caused by various factors, including allergies, stress, fatigue, or lack of sleep, which are typically not a cause for concern. However, in some cases, they may indicate an underlying health condition. Let's take a look at some of the most common causes.
Allergies are one of the most common causes of eye twitching. When you suffer from allergies—especially airborne ones such as pollen or pet dander—your body releases histamine in response to the allergens it detects. Histamine is a chemical that helps fight off infection and inflammation but can also cause eye irritation. This irritation can result in eye twitching or spasms.
Stress and Fatigue
In addition to allergies, stress, and fatigue can cause eye twitching. When your body is under high levels of stress, or you don't get enough restful sleep, it can lead to eye twitches due to exhaustion or tension. If this is the case for you, try incorporating relaxation techniques such as yoga into your daily routine to help reduce the stress and fatigue you experience regularly.
Alcohol and Tobacco Use
Excessive consumption of alcohol or tobacco use can be a potential cause of eye twitching. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and while it can initially relax the body, it can also cause the muscles to become overstimulated, leading to muscle spasms and twitching. Similarly, tobacco contains nicotine, a stimulant that can cause muscle contractions and spasms. In addition, both alcohol and tobacco use can lead to dehydration, which can contribute to eye twitching.
If your eyes are not producing enough tears—a condition known as dry eye syndrome—it can cause inflammation and redness, leading to eye twitches as well. If you think this might be why your eyes are twitching, several treatments, such as artificial tears or prescription medications, are available.
One of the most common causes of eye twitching is a neurological disorder called blepharospasm. Other neurological conditions such as Bell's Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Tourette syndrome, or movement disorders such as Meige syndrome and Parkinson's disease can also cause eye twitching.
Some medications can cause side effects, including eye twitches. You may be taking high blood pressure medication, anti-anxiety drugs, or antidepressants. These medications cause electrolyte imbalances, leading to muscle spasms and eye twitches. Talk to your doctor about your eye twitches if you take these or similar medications.
Another potential cause of eye twitches is a lack of certain vitamins and minerals in your diet that are essential for healthy vision. Vitamin B12 and magnesium deficiencies have been linked to frequent eye twitches, so ensure you get enough of these nutrients in your diet or through nutritional supplements if needed.
If you spend extended periods looking at digital devices such as computers, tablets, or smartphones, chances are your eyes are tired. This is known as digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome (CVS). CVS symptoms include blurry vision, dry eyes, headaches, neck pain, fatigue, and eye twitching. To reduce your risk of experiencing an eye twitch due to CVS, try taking frequent breaks throughout the day and frequently blinking when looking at screens. Also, consider seeing an eye specialist or getting computer glasses.
Drinking too much coffee or energy drinks can also lead to eye twitching. Too much caffeine increases your cortisol levels (a hormone associated with stress), which can cause muscle tension in your face and eyelids that lead to twitching. Try cutting back on caffeinated beverages if you notice frequent eye-twitching episodes.
Note that occasional eye twitching is usually not a cause for concern. However, if the twitching is frequent, persistent, or accompanied by other eye allergy symptoms, such as pain or vision changes, it's best to see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
How Do Allergies Cause Eye Twitching?
Regular seasonal and eye allergies can cause eye twitching due to the release of inflammatory substances in the body. In the case of regular seasonal allergies, exposure to allergens such as pollen can cause a systemic release of histamine and other inflammatory substances in the body.
These substances can affect the muscles around the eyes and drive them to twitch or spasm.
In the case of eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, the release of histamine and other inflammatory substances occurs specifically in the eyes. This can make your eyes twitch, itch, burn, tear, redden, swell, or feel sore. A wide range of allergens can trigger eye twitches, including pet dander, dust mites, and certain types of pollen.
You can manage eye allergy symptoms with over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription eye drops that contain antihistamines or other anti-inflammatory medications. If you experience eye twitching and other allergy symptoms, such as itchy and watery eyes, nasal congestion, or sneezing, the eye twitching is likely related to allergies.
If your eye twitching is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, headaches, or vision changes, consult an eye doctor to rule out other underlying conditions.
Eye Twitching Symptoms
Some of the most common eye-twitching symptoms include:
- Uncontrollable twitching or fluttering of the eyelid
- A sensation of pulsing or vibrating in the eyelid
- Twitching that comes and goes, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes
- Twitching that may affect one or both eyes
- Mild sensitivity to light or blurred vision
- Mild irritation or discomfort in the affected eye
How Do I Stop Eye Twitching?
If you want to stop eye twitching at home, here are a few things you can try:
- Close your eyes and relax: Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Try to relax and reduce any stress or tension in your body. You could also try deep breathing exercises or yoga to calm yourself if you're experiencing stress or fatigue.
- Apply a warm compress: Placing a warm compress on your eye can help to relax the muscles and reduce twitching. You can use a warm washcloth or a warm tea bag.
- Massage your eyelid: Gently massage your eyelid with your fingers to help relax the muscles and stop the twitching.
- Use eye drops: Dry eyes can sometimes trigger eye twitching. Try using artificial tears to keep your eyes lubricated and moist.
- Avoid caffeine: Caffeine can sometimes worsen eye twitching. Try to avoid caffeine or reduce your intake of coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
- Reduce screen time: If you continuously stare at a computer or phone screen, take frequent breaks and rest your eyes.
- Get enough rest: Lack of sleep can trigger eye twitching, so try to get some sleep.
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration can cause muscle spasms, including eyelid twitching. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
When to See a Doctor
Most cases of eye twitching are benign and resolve on their own without treatment. However, you should see a doctor if your eye twitching:
- Persists for more than a few days
- Spreads to other parts of your face
- Affects your vision
- It is accompanied by other symptoms such as drooping eyelids, pupil size changes, or eye discharge
- Is it severe enough to interfere with your daily activities
When to see a doctor for allergies that cause eye twitching:
- Your eye twitching is severe or persistent
- You experience other allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, or itchy eyes
- OTC allergy medications are not effective
- You have a history of severe allergies or anaphylaxis
Your doctor may recommend allergy testing and prescribe allergy medications to alleviate your symptoms. In some cases, they may also refer you to an allergist for further evaluation and treatment.
Eye doctors diagnose eye twitching based on your symptoms and medical history. Sometimes, they recommend additional tests to rule out any underlying conditions that may cause the twitching. Here are some of the common tests used to diagnose eye twitching:
- Physical exam: Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check for any signs of eye or eyelid problems that may be causing the twitching.
- Neurological exam: Your doctor may perform a neurological exam to check for any underlying neurological conditions that may be causing the twitching.
- Blood tests: Blood tests can help identify any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the twitching, such as vitamin deficiencies or autoimmune disorders.
- Allergy test: An allergy test can help identify any allergens causing your seasonal or eye allergies. One at-home allergy test kit is the Wyndly At-Home Allergy Test Kit, which uses a simple finger prick blood test to analyze your reaction to 40 common allergens.
How to Treat Eye Twitching from Allergies
Eye twitching caused by allergies can often be treated by managing the underlying allergy. Here are some common treatments for eye twitching from allergies:
OTC eye drops can help relieve itching, burning, and irritation caused by allergies. Look for eye drops specifically designed for allergy relief, as they may contain an antihistamine, which can reduce inflammation and itching. Some examples of allergy eye drops include ketotifen (Zaditor), olopatadine (Patanol), and azelastine (Optivar).
Antihistamines are medications that can help reduce allergy symptoms by blocking the effects of histamine. Antihistamines are available in both oral and topical forms. Some examples of oral antihistamines include cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), and fexofenadine (Allegra).
Decongestants can help relieve nasal congestion and reduce swelling in the eyes. They work by constricting blood vessels, which can help reduce inflammation and irritation. Some examples of decongestants include pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine).
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT)
SLIT is an allergy treatment involving taking small doses of allergens under the tongue. Over time, it reduces the body's sensitivity to the allergen and reduces allergy symptoms for long-term relief.
The most effective way to treat eye twitching from allergies is to avoid the allergen causing the reaction. Consider making lifestyle changes, such as avoiding certain foods and pets or using air purifiers or HEPA filters to remove allergens from the air. Keep your home clean, wash your hands before touching your eyes, and avoid areas with pollen and similar irritants.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you are experiencing eye twitching and suspect it's caused by allergies, consider taking our at-home allergy test. After taking our allergy test, our allergy doctors will create a personalized treatment plan to get you relief from your allergies. Take our quick online assessment today to find out if Wyndly is right for you!