You are sitting down minding your own business when suddenly your eye starts to twitch. This perplexing phenomena is common and affects millions of people every day. For most people, eye twitching is not a serious condition and typically results from excessive stress or fatigue. For others, eye twitching may be a result of a more serious genetic disorder that can lead to chronic irritation or visual problems. Blepharospasm is the technical term for eye twitching and it is defined as uncontrolled, episodic contraction of the surrounding eye muscle. In other words, eye twitching is defined as an abnormal involuntary blinking or spasms of the eye lids. Some doctors often refer to this condition as "blinking disorder." It sounds pretty serious, but typically eye twitching is benign. Fact, there are more fast twitch muscle fibers in eyelids than anywhere else in your body! What can you do to stop your eye twitching? See our treating eye twitching section below.
Common Causes of Eye Twitching
Lack of sleep (Plus Stress Can Increase It)
Corneal irritation or injury
Prolonged staring or eye strain
Types of Eye Twitching
There are multiple forms of eye twitching (blepharospasm), some more serious than others. The most common form of eye twitching is the occasional eye twitch that while not a serious condition, many patients simply find it a major nuisance. Some patients including those with Tourette's Syndrome or related neurological problems may experience more serious eye blinking disorders that may require evaluation and treatment.
As mentioned above, even acute anxiety can sometimes result in eye twitching. Our bodies are remarkable machines, capable of doing extraordinary and unusual things at times. Eye twitching may be nothing more than a sign you need to take it easy, or need a little R&R, as much as it may be a sign that something more serious is going on. Don't forget, eye twitching is a relatively common phenomena. Ask just about anyone you know and they will probably tell you they have experienced eye twitching at some time or another, often times during stressful moments. Many will probably have funny stories about eye twitching, while others may be able to confirm that eye twitching only occurs in certain situations (like before a big meeting or especially stressful situation).
Usually patients experiencing this condition start realizing symptoms include excessive blinking accompanied by eye irritation. This may result from exposure to overly bright lights or being excessively tired. The frequency with which someone experiences eye twitching will vary from day to day. Some people may notice their symptoms resolve during sleep and restart upon waking.
Should I be very concerned with my Eye Twitching?
Eye Twitching is typically not a case for concern. It is associated with an abnormal function of the "basal ganglion" from an unknown cause. The basal ganglion is the part of the brain responsible for controlling the muscles. In rare cases, heredity may play a role in the development of eye twitching. So chances are if you experience the occasional eye twitch, someone else in your family will too. Some people find eye twitching a result of nothing more than anxiety. Let's say for example you have a big speech to give in front of a large audience. If you are not comfortable with the idea of public speaking, you may notice your eye start tp twitch. This is similar to a nervous "tick" some people develop when facing uncomfortable situations. The catch here is the more you think about your eye twitching, the more likely it is to continue twitching.
Optometrist Dr. Lloyd Mah states "It makes sense that when your general health is not quite right that fast twitch muscle fibers will contract erradically showing up noticeably in the lids. Most lid twitches come and go although some can persist for weeks. It is important to figure out what the cause of your lid twitch is in order to relieve it..."
Treating Eye Twitching
Rest and Relaxation
Simple rest and relaxation often resolves most minor cases of eye twitching. A healthy diet, exercise and a good nights rest can also go a long way. Consider reducing or elminating caffeine and or alcohol from your diet and monitor if it helped. All in all you should work to relieve your stress and get as much rest as possible. If eye strain results in twitching, be sure you get plenty of breaks during the day to help rest your eyes and reduce the severity of your symptoms.
Does Tonic Water Really Help? Many People Say YES!
There is a known muscle relaxant in tonic water called quinine (source). Many people have in fact reported drinking tonic water helped reduce or even stop their eye twitching. The simple concept is that the quinine in the tonic water helps get the "fast twitch muscle fibers" in your eyes to relax and stop twitching. Some have reported as little as one glass a night (see video) was all they needed. Tip - combine the tonic water with something such as orange juice to help with the taste. Please post in the comments below if you have tried tonic water and if it helped!
Medically speaking at this time there is no guranteed cure for eye twitching, although several treatment options may reduce its severity. Some patients may request drug therapy for chronic eye twitching problems, though drug therapy is often considered an unpredictable form of treatment. If you are game however, researchers are consistently working on new ways to treat old problems like eye twitching. In the US and Canada for example, the injection of Botox into the muscles of the eyelids is an approved treatment. Botox, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, paralyzes the muscles of the eyelids and thus eliminates the eyelid spasm.
Medications taken orally for eye twitching are available but usually produce unpredictable results. Symptom relief is usually short term and tends to be helpful in only 15 percent of the cases.
(Source - National Eye Institute)
Myectomy, is a surgical procedure to remove some of the muscles and nerves of the eyelids, is also a possible treatment option. This surgery has improved symptoms in 75 to 85 percent of people with eye twitching (blepharospasm).
If you suffer an occasional bout of eye twitching you probably won't require any specific treatment. If however, your eye twitching results from serious stress or anxiety, or some other undetermined cause, talk with your healthcare provider about ways you can remedy the problem. You can do this a number of ways. There are cognitive behavioral techniques you can use to help relieve your anxiety and reduce the likelihood you will exhibit nervous ticks including eye twitching. Try taking some deep breaths for example, before an important event. Visualize yourself engaging in the event successfully, with a calm demeanor. Imagine yourself succeeding without experiencing any eye twitching. This may seem unusual, but visualization and positive affirmations are a very successful method for relieving stress, anxiety and associated symptoms (like eye twitching). If chronic eye twitching results from lack of sleep or fatigue, your best bet is to try to get more sleep. Even if that means taking a ten to fifteen minute catnap in your car on your lunch break. More sleep can also help relieve stress and anxiety which may be contributing to your eye twitching.
Prevention is also important for alleviating minor eye twitching. Since stress can contribute to muscle problems including eye twitching your eye care professional may work with you to design a stress reduction program. You might consider participating in stress management courses or classes, cognitive therapy or other supportive measures to help relieve stress and anxiety.
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