We’ve all had that feeling: our eyelid starts twitching randomly and we are certain we look like Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus of Pink Panther fame, only to be told by friends and family that they don’t see anything. But you certainly feel it and it’s annoying at best. Usually, it goes away as quickly as it appears, but sometimes that twitchy feeling can last for a couple of weeks, and that can be alarming.
Myokymia (mahy-uh–kim-ee-uh), the medical term for eye twitching, is an involuntary spasm of eyelid muscles. It usually only affects the lower eyelid, although the upper lid can be affected as well. While largely a benign condition in and of itself, the twitching can be symptomatic of other underlying issues and the chances are good that addressing those issues will resolve the eye spasms. The Mayo Clinic says culprits like overuse of alcohol, too much caffeine, lack of sleep, not enough water (dehydration), too much stress, and anxiety are the usual underlying suspects.
Dr. Cheryl Roell, an optometrist at All About Eyes, says another contributing factor to myokymia is a lack of Vitamin D and suggests increasing this vital nutrient in your diet may help to alleviate the spasms. Vitamin D is found in exposure to sunlight, some foods (see the National Institutes of Health for a complete listing), and dietary supplements.
Other irritants can trigger myokymia, such as smoking, wind, and bright lights. Conditions such as pink eye (conjunctivitis), dry eyes, and low-level allergic reactions can cause eye twitching as well. In the case of allergies, an antihistamine can help relieve both the allergies and the eye twitches.
Other home remedies include applying a warm compress to the affected eye, to relax the muscle, and increasing self-care: bed rest, cutting back on caffeine and alcohol, and drinking plenty of water. If these measures still don’t do the trick, then a visit to your eye care specialist is in order, as they can help to rule out other, more serious conditions.
Very rarely, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, persistent eye twitching can be an indicator of brain or nerve disorders such as Bell’s Palsy, Parkinson’s Disease, or Multiple Sclerosis.
If you experience persistent eye twitching for longer than a week, it involves other facial muscles, closes an eyelid, is accompanied by discharge, or you develop a droopy upper eyelid along with the twitching, you should see your eye doctor straight away.