A repetitive involuntary spasm of eyelid muscles or twitching triggered by muscle spasms in an eyelid is known as an eyelid twitch which commonly involves the lower eyelid than the upper lid or can involve both upper lids and lower lids of the eyes. Though most eye twitches come and go but sometimes a twitching eye can last for weeks or even months and doctors refer to it as a common health condition known as myokymia or ocular myokymia.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Priyanka Singh (MBBS, MS, DNB, FAICO), Consultant and Eye Surgeon at New Delhi’s Neytra Eye Centre, cautioned, “These spasms are harmless but often causes closure of the eyes and cause social stigma with a decrease in confidence.”
Categories of eyelid twitch:
Dr Priyanka Singh listed the 3 categories that eyelid twitch fall under:
1. Eyelid Myokymia – This is mild eyelid twitching which are occasional and last for a few hours or a day, then go off on its own. It can be associated with stress, eye strain, dry eyes, high caffeine, lack of sleep or prolonged use of computers.
2. Benign Essential Blepharospasm (BEB) – It is a severe case of eyelid twitching where there is sustained involuntary contraction of eye muscles surrounding the eyes leading to forceful partial complete closure of eyes. It can be associated with involuntary, jerky squeezing of the eyes, flickering of eyebrows and facial muscles surrounding the eye. It can affect both eyes. It is more common in women compared to men. It slowly worsens with the time and can lead to inability to open eyes, soreness of eyes, blurriness. It is cosmetically very unpleasant and often patients avoid public gatherings or cover their eyes and face. It can further lead to depression and functional impairment of activities. As such, there is no direct cause of BEB but can be associated with neurological disorders.
3. Hemifacial Spasm – It is an involuntary contraction of one half of the face involving eyes as well, in association with closure and contraction of eyelids. It also causes flickering and contraction of muscles of face, cheek and mouth. It is usually caused by irritation and compression of facial nerves. Rarely, the spasms can be associated with brain or nerve disorders like bell’s palsy, cervical dystonia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette syndrome.
Revealing the risk factors that trigger such a phenomenon, Dr Sridevi Haldar, Ophthalmologist/Eye Surgeon at Noida’s Ortho Vision Clinic, shared that the most commonly identified causes of an eyelid twitch are:
1. Stress – The stress hormones can trigger twitching.
2. Fatigue – Too much eye fatigue can trigger such muscle spasms
3. Eye strain – Uncorrected refractive errors can cause lot of eye strain thus causing spasm of different eye muscles
4. Caffeine – Frequent intake can trigger twitching in eye muscles
5. Alcohol – Alcohol intake can also result in eye twitches
6. Dry eyes – Due to increased screen time on digital devices can also induce twitching
7. Junk food – Can deprive you of necessary nutrient such as magnesium thus triggering muscle spasms
8. Allergies – Histamine released during allergic reaction is also known to trigger twitches.
Suggesting ways on how to stop an eyelid twitch, Dr Priyanka Singh said, “Mild cases are temporary and resolve on their own by giving rest to the eyes, use of lubricant eye drops, getting enough sleep, reducing caffeine, reducing stress by breathing exercises and meditation. Anti anxiety meditation by prescription can also help in some cases.”
She added, “In cases of BEB and Hemifacial spasm, Botulinum toxin injections are needed which is a minimally invasive technique to alleviate the symptoms of eyes and face. It is injected at very low doses into the hyper-active muscles of the eyes and face. The effects starts within 3-5 days and lasts upto 4-6 months (varies for each individual). In severe and resistant cases, surgery may be needed to remove part of muscles K/A myectomy.”
Listing the remedies for a twitching eye, Dr Sridevi Haldar recommended:
1. Relax and recharge- Long walks, exercise, spending time with friends and family and plenty of sleep can be a great stress buster and can reduce twitching.
2. Repair your diet – Reduce junk food, switch to healthy greens, fruits and plenty of water to detox your body and enhance necessary nutrients.
3. Use eye drops – If your screen time is more due to work commitments, instil preservative free lubricant eyedrops 2-3 times a day as tear supplements to keep eyes healthy and moist.
4. Get an eye exam – Regular eye check ups are recommended to correct any change in refractive errors and thus reduce eye strain induced twitching
The health experts insist that the disease looks simple but the effects are very disturbing to patients and causes much more functional impairment. Hence, consultation with the ophthalmologist is necessary to understand the causes of this disease and deciding on a treatment plan as there is no permanent cure in some cases but the problems can be eased with medicines and injection.