Eye twitching is a common condition, which also goes by the name blepharospasm. You have probably suffered from it at some point in life. The difference lies in the severity of the condition.
You know that you have this condition when you blink or close your eyes fast involuntarily. It can be mild such that you do not even notice it. Some people have regular fluttering that can be a cause of discomfort.
People may even think you are insinuating things when your body is acting out of your control. And then there are people with severe twitching such that they can barely focus on objects. For the last two cases, medical and natural relief is essential.
For the irregular twitches, you can do with one or two consultations as well as embracing natural remedies. It depends on how the twitching affects your daily life.
You should note that blepharospasm could be a result of other conditions in the eyes or the nervous system. In this article, we will focus mainly on primary eye twitching that has no cure and requires management.
In most cases, patients depend on botulinum toxin injections administered at intervals for successful management. For secondary eye twitching, that is a condition that may go away once the causative factor is out of the way.
While this condition can be severe, early intervention goes a long way in minimizing its effects. Let’s get started on what it involves and how you can get some relief from the same:
What is an eye twitch?
Well, an occasional eye twitch is normal, as it can be a reaction to something. However, when the twitching is continuous and involuntary, it points to spasms in the orbicularis oculi muscle.
This muscle works in helping you blink, an activity which cleans your eyes and nourishes them. Typically, you will blink every three to six seconds, averaging ten to twenty times each minute.
When you are concentrating on an activity, this rate reduces as you keep your eyes open for longer. With this rate, you should be fine. However, when you blink so much that you begin to notice it, it points to an increased spasmodic closure. And that is what we call blepharospasm.
The twitching can last for seconds leading into minutes. The degree of the condition varies. For some people, it presents itself as an increase in blinking frequency. For others, it is a painful condition that interrupts their vision, thereby partially disabling them.
Note that any abnormal blinking can fall into this category, though this article will focus on primary blepharospasm. Typically, this condition only affects the eyelids.
In cases where other muscle groups are involved, the condition is known as Meige Syndrome.
Tic vs. twitch
While a twitch can exhibit itself as a tic, these two are very different. They are similar in that they are involuntary. However, with a tic, suppression is possible.
You have probably heard of people talking about someone’s nervous tic. Over time, they can overcome the tic, but you cannot do that with a twitch.
Causes of eye twitching
Eye twitching is not a common problem, and it exhibits in about five of every one hundred thousand people. Also, it is more common in people in their sixties going up and is less common in younger generations. The probability of knowing someone who has it is low. Now, what causes this condition?
Most times, the twitch is not painful, and you will not experience an interruption in activities. However, it may be so frequent that it becomes a bother. The good thing is that most twitches can go away on their own, given time and with the help of natural remedies.
Consulting your doctor is necessary when the spasms do not go away, or they become painful. In such cases, the muscle movement could point to underlying conditions. But before we get into that, here are a few common causes:
1. Caffeine overload
Many people like loading up on coffee, more so when they have a long workday ahead. The caffeine keeps them moving, and they get more work done as a result. While this may work in keeping you active, it could be a source of spasms.
If you take a lot of coffee and have experienced twitching recently, how about cutting back on the caffeine? This way, you can tell if the spasms are as a result of the high intake.
This measure not only applies to coffee but also other caffeinated drinks. Also, try reducing the soft drinks you take. If the twitching goes away, then there you have it. If not, here are other possible causes:
2. Increased fatigue
Are you getting enough rest? It could be that you have been running up and down so much that you forgot to get some shut-eye. When this happens, your eyes are likely to experience twitching in the days that follow.
Figure out why you are not sleeping enough, whether it owes to emotional or physical factors. Also, work on getting more rest, even if it means taking naps in the day. If the extra rest helps, you will know what the causative factor is and keep it at bay.
3. Heightened stress levels
Like a nervous tic, twitching can also point to being stressed out. Some people will experience twitching when they feel stressed out. If you think that you are in over your head, take a step back, and think of ways to de-stress.
Some time outdoors could work wonders. Maybe you could have an hour of meditation now and then or spend more time with loved ones.
Whether this helps with the twitching or not, you will experience a positive change in your mental well-being. And that counts a lot.
4. Dry eyes
If you spend a lot of time on computers or are taking some medications, you are likely to suffer from dry eyes. This condition is mainly prevalent in people aged fifty and above, but it can affect anyone.
If you feel that your eyes are drier than usual, you should consult a doctor before the condition gets worse. The high chances are that you will get a prescription for a solution that restores moisture in the eyes. And the end of twitching will soon follow.
5. What’s on your plate?
Nutrition affects a lot in our lives. Eat too much of something that you should not, and the results start to show. Whether it is a skin breakout or the falling off of hair, poor nutrition is likely to be a causative factor.
In the case of twitching, the problem could be that you lack some nutrients. Some studies have tried to relate twitching to the lack of magnesium.
While the jury is still out on this relationship, it helps to eat a balanced diet. It also helps to consult your doctor to see if you can get supplements to help with the deficiency.
6. Allergic reactions
If you react to allergens, you are likely to experience itchiness now and then. Try as you might, you could find yourself rubbing on the eyes, an activity that induces the release of histamine.
This substance goes into the tears and lid tissues and initiates eye twitching as a response. The best way to go about this is to consult your doctor to find the underlying cause of allergies.
Also, the doctor will prescribe something you can use. Note that you should not use any medicines without a go-ahead from your doctor. It could lead to other issues such as dry eyes, which would only make the twitching worse.
7. Eye strain
You could be straining your eyes without knowing it. Maybe you spend so much time on your computer without protective glasses.
It could also be that the glasses do not have enough power to provide you with the vision enhancement that you need. It helps to consult the doctor to figure out if the twitching is as a result of such strain.
Have you heard of the 20-20-20 rule? Well, it applies to people who spend a lot of time on smart devices. It states: for every twenty seconds spent staring at a digital screen, take a twenty-second break and focus on something twenty feet away.
That could be the difference between twitching and not twitching. Also, you could benefit from a short walk to and from your desk now and then. Give your eyes a break.
8. High alcohol intake
A high intake of alcohol results in eye strain, and this leads to increased blinking. Try reducing your alcohol intake and see if this works towards minimizing the spasms.
9. Other causes
Eye twitching could also be a result of eye trauma, eyelid inflammation, conjunctivitis, and other ocular surface diseases. Although less common, eye twitching could also be due to multiple sclerosis, uveitis, and acute angle-closure glaucoma.
Brain infections, brain injuries and tumors, tardive dyskinesia, Cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, and Tourette’s syndrome are but other causes. In some cases, the twitch could be a side effect of some drugs such as levodopa.
Do you have an eye twitch, or is it something else?
Well, the best way to know is to consult a doctor. There have been cases where people thought they had an eye twitch, given that it mimics the symptoms of other diseases.
An excellent example, in this case, would be the Hemifacial spasm where the forehead muscles are involved. This condition can arise due to several reasons, including damage to a facial nerve. Another condition that could exhibit as twitching is ptosis, where the eyelid droops.
In this case, though, there are no spams. Oromandibular dystonia and myasthenia gravis are other diseases whose symptoms are quite similar to those of twitching.
Start by cutting out any likely causative factors and consult your doctor if the twitching progresses. Do not attempt to treat the condition using un-prescribed medications. How can you manage the symptoms?
Managing eye twitching
Primary blepharospasm does not have a cure. In such a case, you can only rely on botulinum toxin injections administered at intervals. You can also couple this with natural remedies for better results.
In the case of blepharospasm, you can get better if you follow a treatment program. Some people have recovered even without undergoing treatment. However, this is not advisable as leaving the problem be can make it worse. How then should you handle this condition?
Medically managing eye twitching
Before administering any treatments, your doctor will undertake some eye tests to ensure that you get the appropriate treatments.
The doctor will also question you to ensure there are no underlying conditions that could be causing the twitching. Where no other symptoms arise, the doctor can treat you for blepharospasm in the following ways:
Sometimes, you can increase the severity of twitching by being in environments that trigger the same. For example, where you work under bright light, eye strain would be high, and so would the chances of twitching.
In such a case, the doctor can advise that you wear dark glasses to reduce the triggers. The doctor can also teach you some techniques to alleviate the symptoms.
They include yawning, talking, singing, and tugging on the eyelid, among others—these work in stimulating the spasm-producing muscles and reducing the twitching instances.
Studies show that eye twitching does not reduce when patients are under antispasmodic or sedative drugs. While some medicines can work for movement disorders, their effects on blepharospasm patients are long-term and significant.
Your doctor will thus not consider administering such medications for this condition. Instead, they will choose the following option:
Use of injections
People with a deep fear of needles probably want to skip this step. However, this is the most preferred mode of treating eye twitching. It works by directing botulinum toxin into the orbicularis oculi muscle and works for 90% of the patients.
The injections go into four spots along the lids, and results should be evident within three days of treatment. Some people may take longer to see the results, taking up to three weeks from the date of injection. The injections take place at regular intervals of three months for most patients.
While this mode of treatment is the most effective, it also comes with some side effects. Examples include double vision, eyelid drooping, and dry eye, among others.
These symptoms arise when the toxin gets into the eye muscles. Over time, these effects wear off, allowing the patient to enjoy uninterrupted vision.
Going under the knife is almost a last resort solution to eye twitching. Often, you will not need to undergo surgery unless other treatments have failed, and you cannot open your eyes.
In this case, a surgeon removes some of the muscles attributed to this closure. That way, you have an easier time opening your eyes and can thus enjoy better vision.
Now, this is the rarest form of blepharospasm treatment. It works for patients who also exhibit symptoms associated with Meige Syndrome.
Naturally managing eye twitching
If you are suffering from mild eye twitching, you should first consult your doctor. If you do not need any medical treatment or can supplement the same, you can then use natural remedies. These do not have any side effects and are thus the best for you.
Note that you should always consult a doctor as allowing the twitching to remain untreated works against you getting better. Here are some easy ideas:
Under the causes of eye twitching, we mentioned that lack of magnesium is a probable cause. While studies on this may be inconclusive at the moment, it does not hurt to change your diet.
Eating bananas is one way to do so, given that these fruits are rich in potassium and magnesium. Incorporate these and other fruits and veggies into your diet and see if it helps.
Using magnesium supplements goes a long way in reducing the twitch. Some foods have more magnesium than others, and you should thus eat these more. Examples include seeds, nuts, leafy greens, and avocados. Not only will they help in maintaining muscle and nerve functions, but they also help you in combatting other ailments.
Using warm water
There are three ways in which you can use warm water to alleviate symptoms associated with this condition. One is the use of a warm compress on the affected eyelid. This pressure provides relief to twitching after a while.
Take a clean cloth and dip it in warm water before squeezing the excess out. Follow through with laying the cloth on the affected eyelid and resting. Once the cloth is cold, dip it in warm water and place it on the eyelid again. Do this until you no longer experience twitching.
The second means is splashing warm water on your eyes. It has the same effect as the compress by releasing the tension in the muscles. You can do this each time you feel a twitch coming along.
The third is steaming your face. You probably know that steaming is an easy way to unclog your skin pores. However, did you know that this warmth also eases the nerves? Well, all you need to do is to boil a lot of water and put some drops of essential oil in it.
Bow your head towards the steaming water and let your face steam in it for at least five minutes. You can get more steam by trapping escaping air using a towel wrapped around your head.
Using cucumber slices
What’s almost synonymous with a good facial? A cucumber, that’s what! Many people use cucumber slices on their eyelids to soothe their nerves and help the muscles relax. When you have eye twitching, you need this relaxation.
Get some fresh cucumber slices and place them on the affected eyelid. Wait until the cucumber slice turns warm and replace it with another. In the end, you will benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of this veggie.
If you cannot get a cucumber, you can use a potato as it will have similar cooling benefits. What you want is muscle relaxation, and this versatile veggie can give you just that. As is the case with the cucumber, you will need to work with small slices for the most effects.
Using rose water
Some people experience twitching because they are tired. Maybe you have been putting in long hours at work and haven’t had the time to get enough rest. The strain in your eyes will exhibit as a twitch. In this case, you can rely on rose water for instant relief.
Keep the water in a chilled area and dip a cotton ball in the water. Take the ball and compress the affected eyelid with it. The water gives you relief from the twitching for a considerable while. Note that you will get better relief by giving your body what it needs most – rest.
Getting a face massage
Why do people love massages? Well, they aid significantly in the relaxation of muscles. In the same way, getting a facial massage can relax those spasm-causing muscles and increase blood circulation.
While you cannot always get a facial massage, you can give yourself one. Massaging the area around the eyes works towards giving you relief. You can do this as many times as needed during the day.
You are probably wondering what kinds of exercises can give you relief from eye twitches. There are some simple exercises you can master within no time to offer you relief:
One is hard blinking in quick succession. That way, you can hydrate the eye by spreading the tears through the surface. Also, you stretch the eye muscles and increase circulation in the area. Where the twitch is as a result of dry eye or strain, this technique can help.
You do this by shutting your eyes tightly before opening them as wide as you can. Doing this continuously will make your eyes water, and this can make you uncomfortable.
If you feel uncomfortable or the twitching progresses, you should stop. A few times a day should do the trick.
Another way is by closing your eyelids halfway such that your eyes are not fully open. Doing this for half a minute hydrates the eyes and strengthens the muscles.
You can also try squeezing your eyes as this adds to their tear production. Shut them tightly before slightly opening them. Do this three times and open them fully for relaxation.
Finally, you can try meditation and deep breathing as a way to de-stress. While at it, do not forget to stay hydrated and take time off from using smart devices.
While blepharospasm is a neurological disorder, some people have been misdiagnosed as having psychiatric disorders. It thus helps to consult your doctor to ensure that you manage the condition from the onset.
Unlike most diseases, it does not have apparent symptoms when it starts. You will probably notice an increase in blinking in one eye before it affects the other. If you leave it be, it will only become worse in the times that come.
Some people get it so bad that they cannot open their eyes. Get help today and keep this condition from interfering with your activities now and in the future.