There are few things more distracting than an eyelid twitch; for no apparent reason, your eyelid starts to twitch, pulse or spasm all of its own accord.
But could we be inadvertently causing this condition by some of our working or lifestyle habits?
What causes eyelid twitching?
Why do eyes twitch anyway? The reason is that the eyelids contain muscle tissue, and this is stimulated to contract by electrical signals from the brain. These signals allow us to blink and make a variety of facial expressions. Sometimes the signal is sent out at random, causing a one-off twitch or spasm that lasts only a short time. It usually only affects one eye (upper or lower lid).
Longer lasting episodes are related to tiredness, stress or over-stimulation of the muscles themselves. The main culprits are listed below:
1. Caffeine overload
Love your coffee? Coffee is a stimulant and over-consumption can bring on a range of symptoms including muscle tics, such as in the eyelids. Try cutting back (if you can!) to half your daily consumption and see if your symptoms disappear.
2. Eye strain
The human eye was simply not designed to stare at a computer screen for 8 hours plus per day. Symptoms of eye strain include fatigue, dry eyes, blurred vision, headache, double vision and – eyelid twitch. Learn how to reduce your symptoms here.
No time to read the whole article? Download our Free eBook on Computer Eye Strain here.
Stress – both mental and physical – releases a hormone in your body called cortisol. This hormone has physical effects on the body and acts as a stimulant, a bit like caffeine. This can bring on eyelid spasm as well as many other, more serious symptoms. Interestingly, worrying about your eyelid tic can further raise the cortisol levels in your system, causing prolonged symptoms. If you have a stressful job or lifestyle, managing it with yoga, meditation, exercise and appropriate holiday leave can be very helpful.
4. Lack of sleep
Lack of sleep is the new smoking – it’s officially bad for your health! Rest plays an essential role is balancing our hormones and relieving stress. If you’ve been burning the candle both ends, an eyelid twitch can be a sign that you need to readdress the balance. Aim for 8 hours of sleep at least 3 to 4 nights per week.
5. Dry eyes
The eyelids glide on a cushion of tears, which includes an oily layer that acts like a lubricant. If the tear layer is compromised due to dry eyes, the movement of the eyelids is disrupted, which can lead to twitching. Long hours on digital screens are a major contributor to dry eyes, so if you work at a desk, use a smart phone and relax by watching TV or reading a kindle, you may need to use a good lubricant to supplement your natural tears and eliminate the twitch.
This is a rare neurological condition that leads to spasm and twitching of muscles around the eyes. Blepharospasm is believed to be caused by a malfunction of parts of the brain that normally control jerky movements. It is diagnosed by an ophthalmologist and can be managed with injections of tiny amounts of botulinum toxin (Botox). Oral medications or eyelid surgery may also be helpful.
The symptoms are a little different to basic eye-twitching:
- Untreated, symptoms tend to become worse over time, rather than disappear.
- Both eyes are often affected.
- Other facial muscles can also spasm.
- Spasm can last for over an hour and be strong enough to force the eyelids closed.
- Blink rate and intensity is increased.
When do I need to see a specialist?
It might be necessary to an ophthalmologist specialising in eyelids, if your optometrist rules out and treats most of the above contributors and the eyelid twitching keeps persisting.
True blepharospasm is rare, affecting only 5 in 100,000 people. Your specialist will need to rule out eyelid spasms related to other systemic conditions, which are even rarer.