We've all had it happen. Our eyelid just starts twitching or spasming away. At first, it just feels funny, but after a while, it can start to drive you crazy.
Your eyelid will just start twitching for 4-5 minutes, and then it stops, and then it starts back up again. You look in the mirror, but you can't see anything wrong. You rub your eye, and the problem goes away for a short period before starting all over again.
Every year, we see hundreds of patients who present to our eye clinic with these exact symptoms. A twitchy eye like this is usually nothing to be concerned about, and more often than not it ends up being a benign eye condition commonly referred to as 'Myokymia.'
The Classic Presentation:
Jim saw us last winter while he was attending NAIT. He was a welder trying to get his Journeyman certificate and was finally in the home stretch. Jim is also a family man with a wife, two kids and stressed over being stuck in the classroom.
He reported feeling exhausted trying to balance his home life, with his school life and was finding it difficult to study after the kids went to bed. Jim noticed that he would fall asleep whenever he picked up the books. To help concentrate, he started drinking pop to stay awake but then couldn't fall asleep when it was time to go to bed.
He ended up in our clinic though because his eye started twitching about a week earlier and it was driving him nuts. It just wouldn't stop. Initially, he thought he got a piece of dust or metal in it, but flushing his eye out didn't help. Jim also reported that the twitching seemed to come and go, but it was worse at night.
An eye health exam showed that nothing was physically wrong, no dust or metal and his vision was great with no signs of reading problems. In the end, we diagnosed Jim with myokymia (twitchy eye). We educated him on the reason (see below) and coached him through the steps on how to manage it (yep, keep reading). The best part was two days later he reported that the twitching had stopped.
So what causes an eyelid to twitch?
An eyelid twitch is usually the result of a sudden contraction of the obicularious muscle, which is responsible for closing your eyelids. The twitching sensation most often impacts the lower eyelid and occasionally can even place pressure on the eyeball itself causing the eye to move. However, this is a very rare phenomenon.
A twitchy eye is usually a sign that your body is trying to tell you that things are out of balance. It's usually a manifestation of an underlying problem that needs addressing.
The most common cause of a twitchy eyelid includes physical exhaustion, increased stress, excessive caffeine (coffee, cola) or alcohol consumption, dehydration, excessive exercise and reduced potassium levels (lake of intact, or excessive sweating). Occasionally, an eyelid twitch can be the result of an eye infection, ingrown eyelash or something irritating the eye. It can also be related to vision problems causing excessive visual stress and fatigue.
Ok, Ok, I don't need to know the science behind it. Just make it stop!
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for a twitchy eye. Symptoms can last up to a month and often disappear as quickly as they began. But there are a few things you can do to help speed things up.
It's time to cut back on life. Reduce the caffeine and alcohol, drink more water, go to bed a little earlier for a few days, and try to eat foods rich in potassium (bananas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beets, etc.). If possible try to reduce your stress levels. Twitchy eyelids often appear around big deadlines and events in life (projects, finals, weddings, funerals, etc.).
If step #1 doesn't work or your symptoms seem to get worse, book an appointment to see us. If it's an infection, an ingrown hair or something else, our optometrists can deal with the problem right away. We always welcome walk-in appointments and eye emergencies, just call us early in the day and we would be happy to see you.
Remember, most eyelid twitches are not medical emergencies, but a sign that your body isn't happy. To learn more about twitching eyelids, check it out on Medscape.
Leave a comment below and let us know if you've ever experienced myokymia and how you managed it.
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Kingsway Mall | Edmonton | Alberta