Eye twitching is described as a vibrating sensation on the eyelid, which is the membrane that covers the eyeball. This sensation is common, and usually occurs due to muscle fatigue in this part of the eyes. It is very similar to a cramp that can happen in any other part of the body.
Generally, eye twitching affects just one eye, particularly the lower eyelid. However, many patients may report twitching in both eyes.
In most cases, twitching can last for one or two days, although there are cases in which it lasts for weeks to months. You should see an ophthalmologist if the eye twitching persists, as it may be a sign of vision problems or an eye infection.
What causes eye twitching?
Although twitching is usually the result of tired eye muscles, there are many other conditions that are also related to eye twitching. These include:
1. Excess stress
Stress can cause many physiological changes in the body, particularly in the way your muscles work. This is due to hormones that are released in times that the body perceives stress.
Smaller muscles, like the ones in your eyes, may be more sensitive to these hormonal changes, leading to involuntary eye twitching.
How to stop it: If you are going through a hard time and experiencing stress, try to prioritize relaxing activities like watching a movie, doing yoga or participating in group activities with friends. This will help to balance hormonal levels and relieve muscle twitches. You can also drink tea prepared with herbs for anxiety and stress to help manage stress symptoms naturally.
2. Lack of sleep
Sleeping less than 7 or 8 hours per night can lead to very tired eye muscles, as the eyes are used constantly throughout the day and require adequate rest. Not resting for a sufficient amount of time can also trigger the release of stress hormones that cause weaker muscles and twitching.
How to stop it: You are advised to sleep at least 7 hours per night. Be sure to rest in a calm and relaxing room for a restful sleep. Check out our tips on how to fall sleep fast.
3. Dehydration or nutritional deficiency
A lack of essential vitamins (like vitamin B12) or minerals (like potassium or magnesium) can cause involuntary muscle spasms that can affect the eyelids. Decreased water intake is another factor in tremors, as dehydration leads to weakened muscles that may twitch.
Patients over the age of 65 or patients who follow a vegetarian diet have a higher chance of experiencing a vitamin deficiency, which can also lead to more twitching.
How to stop it: Be sure to increase your vitamin B intake by eating more meat, fish or dairy products. You should also aim to drink at least 1.5 L of water per day.
4. Vision problems
Vision problems can lead to many systemic symptoms, like headaches, excessive fatigue and eye twitching. Eye diseases are typically associated with increased straining of the eyes to focus, which can fatigue them much quicker than usual.
How to stop it: If you find that you are having problems reading certain letters or if you notice that images or text is blurry when held closer to your eyes, you are advised to see an ophthalmologist for assessment. Patients who wear glasses should be monitored on a regular basis and should follow-up with their ophthalmologist if they notice worsening.
5. Dry eyes
Dry eyes is a common symptom in patients over the age of 50. Eye twitching is the body’s natural mechanism to keep the eyeball lubricated. There are other factors that can contribute to dry eyes, like prolonged screen time, using contact lenses or taking antihistamines.
How to stop it: Moisturizing eye drops are advised for use throughout the day to keep the eyeball lubricated. It is important to take regular breaks from screens, at least every 1 to 2 hours, and to avoid using contact lenses for longer than 8 hours.
6. Coffee or alcohol intake
Drinking more than 6 cups of coffee per day, or more than 2 cups of wine per day, can increase your risk for eye twitching, as these drinks can make the body more alert and dehydrated.
How to stop it: Caffeine and alcohol reduction, if needed, should be done in a gradual fashion. Patients are advised to also increase their water intake to replace these drinks.
Patients with allergies will often report symptoms such as red eyes, itching, and watery eyes. Rubbing your eyes triggers the release of histamine (which is also released as a result of the allergen), which can also increase eye twitching.
How to stop it: You should take antihistamines as prescribed by your doctor, and to avoid the allergen that triggers symptoms.
When to see a doctor
In most cases, twitching eyes is not a sign of a serious clinical problem. It typically resolves on its own within a few days. Nonetheless, you should see a family doctor or ophthalmologist if you experience eye twitching with any of the following:
- Red eyes or eyelid swelling
- Eyelid drooping
- Eyelids that close completely when twitching
- Twitching that lasts for more than a week
- Twitching that affects other areas of the face
In these cases, eye twitching may be a sign of an eye infection or a problem in a nerve that innervates the face. These should be diagnosed and treated promptly to prevent complications.