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Myokymia: Why Your Eye Is Twitching Involuntarily

Medical Daily logo Medical Daily 2 days ago Sadhana Bharanidharan
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Is eye twitching always harmless or can it ever serve as a sign you should visit the doctor? Here's what you should know about eyelid myokymia.

Your eyes are an important part of your body. Since they are used constantly through the day, it can be quite easy to notice when there is something wrong with them. Eye twitching or eyelid twitching is one of the most common problems that can occur.

What is eye twitching?

Have you ever started to feel spasms in your left or right eye while not doing anything out of the ordinary? If so, what you experienced was a case of eye twitching or eyelid twitching.

Referred to as "eyelid myokymia" by medical professionals, it can be described as an involuntary action which causes rapid fluttering of the eye. In most cases, it is said to involve the lower eyelid and will last for short periods of time. Though the sensation can feel very strong, the contractions are usually not noticeable to others.  

What are some of the causes of the twitching?

Nearly all cases of sudden-onset eyelid twitching are harmless and influenced by factors related to diet and lifestyle. Here are five of the most common causes:

  1. Stress: The spasms may be a result of recent mental pressure you have experienced due to anything from challenges at work to personal difficulties. Eye strain is a related cause of twitching, especially if you have dry eyes, need glasses or have been spending too much time looking at screens.
  2. Fatigue: The muscles around your eyes are sensitive and need enough shut-eye on a daily basis. When you don't get enough sleep, the sympathetic nervous system (which controls involuntary activities) goes into overdrive as a response. A few easy steps can help improve the quality of your nightly rest.
  3. Diet: Caffeine and alcohol trigger the release of feel-good chemicals to stimulate the nervous system. As they excite the nerves, it is possible that the root cause of your eye spasms may have simply been a night of binge drinking or eating more chocolate than usual. 
  4. Infection: Dr. Mark Blecher, an eye surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital Primary Eye Care in Philadelphia, cites eyelid inflammation caused by a condition called blepharitis. In this case, bacteria may have entered your eyelid, causing inflammation and redness. Dr. Blecher recommends running hot water over a washcloth and placing it over the affected eye.
  5. Nutritional Deficiency: Magnesium helps maintain bodily functions such as blood pressure, enzyme reactions, and heart rhythm. An inadequate intake of the mineral can cause symptoms that include spasms of eye muscles. Some experts have also suggested myokymia may be a sign of a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Can eyelid spasms ever be an indicator of something more serious?

In rare cases, they can indicate neurological issues that may need medical attention. According to the American Academy Of Ophthalmology (AAO), blepharospasm and hemifacial spasm are the rarer, more serious types of eye spasm. They tend to have more severe symptoms such as causing the eyelids to shut tightly or spreading the spasms to other parts of your face.

If your twitching is accompanied by discharge, affects your vision, or lasts beyond a week, you may need to visit an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. 

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