Eye twitching is a movement or spasm of the eyelid or eye muscles that can't be controlled. There are different types of eye twitching. Each type of twitch has a different cause.
The most common type of eye twitching is called myokymia. This type of twitch or spasm is very common and happens to most people at some point. It can involve either the upper or lower eyelid, but usually only one eye at a time. The eye twitching can range from barely noticeable to irritating. The twitching usually goes away within a short time but could happen again over a few hours, days or longer.
Another type of eye twitching is known as benign essential blepharospasm. Benign essential blepharospasm starts out as increased blinking of both eyes and may lead to the eyelids being squeezed shut. This type of twitching is uncommon but can be extremely severe, affecting all aspects of life.
Hemifacial spasm is a type of twitching that involves muscles on one side of the face, including the eyelid. Twitching may start around your eye and then spread to other parts of the face.
The most common type of eyelid twitching, called myokymia, may be triggered by:
- Alcohol intake
- Bright light
- Caffeine excess
- Eye strain
- Irritation of the eye surface or inner eyelids
- Wind or air pollution
Benign essential blepharospasm is a movement disorder, called dystonia, of the muscles around the eye. No one knows exactly what causes it, but researchers think it's caused by a malfunction of certain cells in the nervous system called basal ganglia.
Hemifacial spasm is typically caused by a blood vessel that presses on a facial nerve.
Other conditions that sometimes include eyelid twitching as a sign include:
- Dry eyes
- Light sensitivity
Eye twitching may be a side effect of medications, particularly medicine used to treat Parkinson's disease. Very rarely, eye twitching may be a sign of certain brain and nervous system disorders. In these cases, it's almost always accompanied by other signs and symptoms. Brain and nervous system disorders that can cause eye twitching include:
- Bell's palsy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Oromandibular dystonia and facial dystonia
- Parkinson's disease
- Tourette syndrome
When to see a doctor
Eye twitching usually goes away on its own within a few days or weeks with:
- Stress relief.
- Decreased caffeine.
Schedule an appointment with your health care provider if:
- The twitching doesn't go away within a few weeks.
- The affected area feels weak or stiff.
- Your eyelid completely closes with each twitch.
- You have difficulty opening the eye.
- Twitching happens in other parts of your face or body as well.
- Your eye is red or swollen or has discharge.
- Your eyelids are drooping.