Eyelid contraction, or myokymia, is an involuntary and repetitive spasm of the eyelid muscles that many of us have perceived without a detectable origin. This contraction normally occurs in the upper eyelid, but cases may occur in the lower eyelid and may be perceived as a nervous tic.
For most people, these spasms are very mild and feel like a soft pulse on the eyelid. Others may experience a spasm strong enough that it forces both eyelids to close completely. In this case we will be facing a condition called blepharospasm .
Spasms usually occur every few seconds for a minute or two, although they are unpredictable. There may even be cases of contractions that appear intermittently for several days. So you may not experience any spasm for weeks or even months. In principle they are painless and harmless, but serious discomfort can occur if the situation worsens. Most spasms will resolve on their own without the need for treatment, although they may appear due to an underlying problem that does require treatment.
Causes of eyelid twitching
Eyelid spasms can occur without an identifiable cause. Because they are rarely a sign of a serious problem, the cause is often not investigated. However, eyelid spasms can be caused or worsened by eye irritation, eyelid distention, fatigue, lack of sleep, physical exertion, side effects of medications, stress, or the use of alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine.
If the twitching of the eyelid becomes chronic, it is possible that a ” benign essential blepharospasm ” is the name of the chronic and uncontrollable blinking. This condition generally affects both eyes. Although the exact cause of the condition is unknown, there are factors that can worsen spasms such as blepharitis or inflammation of the eyelid, conjunctivitis, dry eyes, environmental irritants, fatigue, sensitivity to light, stress, too much alcohol or caffeine.
Myochemy, for unknown reasons, is more common in women than in men and usually starts and stops spontaneously. It can also be a problem, as they are very distracting and prevent you from concentrating on a task at hand, which in turn affects job performance. There are even times when it is necessary to close the eye to relieve the throbbing.
Complications of eyelid spasms
In rare cases, eyelid twitching is a symptom of a more serious brain or nerve disorder. When spasms are the result of these more serious conditions, they are almost always accompanied by other symptoms. If you think you have an eye injury, see an optometrist or ophthalmologist right away. Scratches to the cornea can cause permanent eye damage.
Brain and nerve disorders that can cause eyelid spasms include:
- Bell’s palsy (facial palsy): a condition that causes one side of the face to tilt down
- Dystonia – unexpected muscle spasms in which the body part of the affected area twists or contorts
- Cervical dystonia (spasmodic torticollis) – causes the neck to spasm randomly and the head to twist into awkward positions
- Multiple sclerosis – a disease of the central nervous system that causes movement and cognitive problems, as well as fatigue
- Parkinson’s disease – can cause limb tremors, muscle stiffness, balance problems, and slurred speech
- Tourette syndrome – characterized by involuntary movements and verbal tics
How to treat eyelid twitching?
The spasms are rarely severe enough to require emergency medical treatment. However, if they are chronic, they can be a symptom of a more serious disorder of the brain or nervous system.
You may need to see your doctor if you have chronic eyelid spasms along with red or swollen eyes, a droopy upper eyelid, or an eyelid that closes completely. It is also recommended to go if the spasm continues for weeks or begins to affect other parts of your face.
The most common causes of eyelid twitching are stress, fatigue, and caffeine. To relieve eye spasms, you may prefer to do some home remedies like drinking less caffeine, getting enough sleep, or applying a warm compress to your eyes. You can also keep your eyes lubricated with artificial tears or over-the-counter drops.
Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections can also be used to treat benign essential blepharospasm. Botox can relieve severe spasms for a few months. However, as the effects of the injection wear off, you may need more injections, as the underlying problem is not treated.
Surgery to remove some of the muscles and nerves in the eyelids (myectomy) can also treat more serious cases of benign essential blepharospasm.
Can they be prevented?
If your eyelid twitching occurs more frequently, keep a journal and write down when they occur. Take into account the consumption of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol, as well as the level of stress and the amount of sleep that you have been sleeping in the previous periods and during the eyelid twitching.
Since one of the most common causes of eyelid twitching is lack of sleep, you should make sure to get eight hours of sleep each night to help prevent the eyelids from moving for no apparent reason. You can also try changing your diet to incorporate healthier foods, as well as making sure you are well hydrated.
Overexposure to digital screens can also strain your eyes and cause your eyelids to twitch. You may have noticed them that at the end of a long day in front of your computer around your eye. Taking breaks and spending time away from screens can significantly help reduce the effects of myokymia.
If you notice that you have more twitching when you don’t get enough sleep, try going to bed 30 minutes to an hour earlier to help relieve tension on your eyelids and reduce twitching.