Eye Health Central

Eye twitching or flickering: why, causes and how to stop.

Why does my eyelid keep twitching?

That twitching in your eye is an involuntary muscle movement. Known medically as Myokymia (mi″o-ki´me-ah) - from the Greek words Myo meaning muscle and Kymos meaning wave. Many people will experience the sensation of a twitching eyelid at some point in their lives and whether the twitching is experienced for just for a few seconds or over a few days or even months, in almost all cases it is nothing to be concerned about. 

Although painless, the muscle spasm can be felt as a tingling, fluttering or twitching sensation, it can feel like a large movement and make you feel self conscious as you feel as though everyone around you can see the twitching, but in reality the movement of the muscle is so small that it cannot usually be seen by the human eye, even if you look in a mirror at the time of the spasming it is rare that even you will be able to detect the movement.


The Most Common Causes Of A Twitching Eyelid Are -

1. Eye strain
2. Stress
3. Lack of sleep (fatigue)
4. Caffeine or Alcohol

The problem normally presents as a twitching sensation in one of the top outer eyelids, but can be present in any of the eye muscles.


Is A Twitching Eye Serious?

In almost all cases a twitching eye is non serious and will go away on it own or with some simple interventions, however, If you experience a prolonged episode or episodes of a twitching eye it is recommended you see an eye doctor who can check for more serious conditions such as blepharospasm or hemifacial spasm.


What Causes Eyelid Twitching?

The involuntary twitching of a muscle or muscles that surround the eyelid, this can be caused by a number of reasons the most common of which are:
1. Eye strain
2. Stress
3. Lack of sleep (fatigue)
4. Caffeine or Alcohol
5. Dry eyes
6. Diet
7. Allergies


Let’s look at the causes and treatments in more detail.



Lack of sleep

Lack of sleep is the primary cause of eyelid twitching. This is easily dealt with by a few good nights sleep or you could try power napping.
Try not to reach for a cup of coffee or a high energy drink as these regularly contain caffeine which can have a worsening effect.
If you are having long term trouble sleeping or suffering from insomnia it may-be worth having a word with your doctor for options of achieving a good night's sleep.


Stress

Stress can be caused by many external pressures, a quick on the spot remedy for stress related eye twitching or even stress in general is to close the eyes and take some deep breaths whilst slowly massaging the eyes.
Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique, this involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds, whilst gently massaging both of your outer eyelids in a circular motion - to prevent eye irritation or infection make sure your hands are clean and lint free.
If you have more time you could try listening to music or get some fresh air by going for a long walk.


Caffeine or Alcohol

Screen time and coffee

Caffeine and alcohol have been found to exacerbate eye twitching, we don’t just mean coffee! Caffeine can be found in tea, power drinks and fizzy drinks. Try searching out decaffeinated alternatives.
By cutting out caffeine you will not only be helping improve your twitching eyes but may find you sleep better and reduce stress levels.

Eye strain

Eye strain can easily be caused by our over use of computers, tablets and smartphones, if you think this is the cause then try the 20-20-20 rule, for every 20 minutes of screen time, focus on something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
If you haven’t had an eye test for some time then your prescription could be out of date and your glasses or contact lenses are not fully correcting your vision causing your eyes to work harder than they should.


Dehydration

Dehydration can increase your chances of experiencing twitching eye, try to increase your water intake to between 8-10 glasses of water a day, that’s about 3-4 pints, not only will this help with a twitching eyelid but can improve skin quality and benefit your kidneys.


Dry eyes

It’s not just your body that needs hydration, your eyes need moisture too. There are a number of causes for dry eyes, over use of computers, tiredness, medication, the aging process… if you can address any of these simply, then do so, however many people who suffer  from dry eyes find the use of moisturising eye drops helpful. If you are a contact lens wearer make sure the drops you use are suitable to be used whilst wearing contact lenses.
If dry eyes are a constant problem have a word with your eye doctor as they may be able to suggest treatments that are not available over the counter.


Diet

A twitching eyelid can be an indication that key nutritional elements are lacking in the diet, although there is little scientific evidence to support this, people have reported adding extra magnesium and potassium to their diet has reduced eye twitching.
Foods, rich in magnesium include dark chocolate, nuts, and banana whereas avocados, milk and bananas are rich in potassium.


Allergies

Allergies can cause dry, itchy or watery eyes, often causing the sufferer to rub their eyes. Rubbing the eyes whilst suffering from an allergy can release histamines into the tissue of the eyelids and even the tears, which can exacerbate eye twitching.
You can try using your regular antihistamines tablets or eye drops, if these are not working then speak with your eye doctor who may be able to suggest alternatives.


How To Stop A Twitching Eye

Rest your eyes, get a good night's sleep or take a short nap, top up on your fluids but avoid caffeine or alcohol, you could also try some simple eye exercise, such as gently massaging your eyelids or apply a warm compress.
Before you try to stop your twitching eye it is worth taking a few minutes to try to establish why your eye is twitching, as we’ve mentioned this could be for a number of reasons.

Most incidences of eyelid twitching clear up on their own with no intervention from the sufferer, however, if you suffer eyelid twitching over weeks or months then seek the advice of a healthcare professional.


Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 22 Jul 2020, Last modified: 11 Sep 2020