We have almost certainly all experienced some uncomfortable twitching of the eyelids at some point in our lives.
Dry eye: what it is and how to treat it at home
When someone notices a twitching eyelid, what is actually happening is a kind of spasm, which can be classified from lesser to greater severity between what is known by the medical terms of eyelid myokymia (small contractions of the eyelid) and benign blepharospasm (involuntary spasms that cause the eye to close partially or completely and something more serious that would require consultation with a specialist).
The common denominating factor of these disorders is that they are involuntary, rapid and repeated movements of the eyelid musculature.
Myokymia, the benign disorder that causes twitching of the eyelid
Myokymia, which is what we will focus on in this article, is not usually visible to others, it is only noticed by the sufferer because, in general, the eyelid does not close completely. It does so partially in the form of a small tremor.
Furthermore, it is usually limited to the lower eyelid of both eyes (although it can also appear in the upper eyelid). It is a tremor caused by involuntary contractions in the orbicularis oculi muscle, which is responsible for closing the eyelids.
When we are awake, the eyelid works non-stop (it is estimated that we blink between 15-20 times per minute, which would be equivalent to once every four seconds, approximately). Therefore, it is important to give it the necessary time to recover and rest (as we will see later).
Of unspecified incidence, it can be a reason for consultation in the neurology specialty, although eye twitches are usually harmless, mild and have no effect on vision. They usually occur every few seconds and continue for several minutes before stopping. They do not usually last for long, although in the most severe cases a tic can last for several days.
Many of these movements do not need treatment because, as we have seen, most of them resolve by themselves. They are not a serious medical problem either, but we can speak of a malfunction of the motor nerves that drive several muscles of the eyelid.
However, if they are accompanied by other facial twitching or uncontrollable movements, it may be an early warning sign of a chronic movement disorder. If it persists, it may also indicate a neurological condition.
What Causes Eye Twitches Besides Stress?
Although the exact cause of eye twitching is unknown, it has been linked either to an irritation of the nerve fibers that transmit nerve stimuli to the muscle, or also to a bulging dysfunction in the facial nucleus.
In most cases, they are caused by stress because, like the rest of the body, the eye muscle, in situations of tension or anxiety, as well as being very active, is very sensitive and produces these uncontrollable involuntary palpitations. But it is not the only cause, there are other related causes such as:
- Fatigue. The tics in the eye often are a sign that our body is asking us to stop a little.
- Lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can affect the nervous system that controls muscle contraction.
- Strenuous exercise. Physical exertion can also cause muscle fatigue, sometimes resulting in spasms in the arms and legs and even the eyes.
- Smoking. Nicotine causes muscles to contract.
- Caffeine intake (or any other exciting substance). causes the muscles to tighten
- certain medications. those used to treat epilepsy and epileptic seizure disorderThe muscles of the eyelids have been linked to Parkinson’s disease.
- Prolonged staring, especially in front of a screen. This puts a lot of strain on the eye and can stimulate irritation and spasm.
Myokymia is rarely the result of an underlying disease.
The Four Steps to Prevent and End Eye Twitching
Although myokymia most often goes away on its own within a few minutes or hours, treating these spasms, either by stopping them or making them less noticeable (or both), involves treating the causes.
The steps, therefore, involve addressing the lifestyle factors mentioned above that can help control and reduce spasms:
- Rest and sleep: as we have mentioned, tics often appear when people are very tired. Taking time to rest and getting restful sleep can help minimize their presence.
- Reduce consumption of caffeine and stimulants such as tobacco or energy drinks and drink more water.
- Reduce stress and anxiety with relaxing activities or find more time for physical exercise.
- “Hydrate” your eyes to prevent dry eyes by using some type of lubricating eye drops or hydration solutions.
- Stay away from cell phone screens and other electronic devices.
Despite the simplicity of these guidelines, it is important to see an ophthalmologist if the tremor lasts for several days because it may be a symptom of something more serious. In these cases it may be necessary to carry out an exhaustive study to find the root of the problem.