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 fatigue or stress. For others, eye twitching may be a result of a more serious genetic disorder that can lead to chronic irritation or visual problems.
Blepharospasm (Defined as Eye Twitching)
Blepharospasm is the technical term for 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 it may not be.
Other Names for that Eye Twitch:
Also known as benign essential, blepharospasm, hemifacial spasm,eye spasms.
There are multiple forms of blepharospasm, some more serious than others. The most common form of blepharospasm is the occasional eye twitch that while not a serious condition, many patients simply find it a 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.
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.
Blepharospasm 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. Also see our article on shifty eyes.
What do you do in this case? Your best bet is try to relax. The more you can relieve your anxiety, the less likely your eye is to twitch. Let's talk more about the causes of eye twitching and possible solutions.
Causes of Eye Twitching
There are various causes of eye twitching in its serious and not so serious formats. The more common causes for eye twitching include:
As mentioned above, even acute anxiety can sometimes results 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. 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).
Treating Eye Twitching
At this time, there is no successful 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 stress or anxiety, or some other undetermined cause, talk with your healthcare provider about ways you can remedy the problem safely and easily. 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.
Prevention is also important for alleviating minor eye twitching. Since stress can contribute to muscle problems including eye twitching or blepharospasm, 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.
Rest and relaxation often resolve most minor cases of eye twitching. If you experience more severe twitching your doctor may recommend BOTOX therapy or medication. In rare cases, surgery may be recommended particularly if twitching is interfering with vision.
Prevention is best when it comes to twitching. 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.