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What are Eyelid Spasms?

Eyelid spasms, or myokymia, are involuntary twitches of the eyelid muscles, often triggered by stress, fatigue, or caffeine. These benign contractions can be annoying but are usually harmless. Accompanied by vivid images, our article unpacks their causes and remedies. Wondering how to alleviate these pesky twitches? Keep reading for expert insights and tips.
D. Messmer
D. Messmer

Eyelid spasms are twitches of the upper or lower eyelid that the person having them can feel and that sometimes are significant enough for others to be able to see as they happen. These spasms occur when the muscles of the eyelid involuntarily contract. There are a number of causes of eyelid spasms, including stress, fatigue, caffeine consumption and prolonged eye strain. Spasms can last for as little as a few seconds and for as much as several months, but they usually are not cause for concern.

There are three classifications of eye spasms. The most common is the eye twitch, which usually is the result of stress or fatigue. This type of eyelid spasm usually is harmless. The best treatment is rest and relaxation, although rinsing the eye with warm water sometimes helps. It also can be beneficial to reduce the consumption of caffeine or sugar if the eye twitching persists for a long time.

An eyelid spasm causes involuntary twitching.
An eyelid spasm causes involuntary twitching.

Another, more serious type of spasm is called an essential blepharospasm. This is an involuntary condition that affects both eyes at the same time. As a result of an essential blepharospasm, the eyes tend to close involuntarily. The muscle spasms also can affect the eyebrows and even the mouth and neck muscles. The cause of this more severe eye spasm is an abnormal nerve pulse.

Prolonged eye strain can cause eyelid spasms.
Prolonged eye strain can cause eyelid spasms.

Essential blepharospasms, when they occur, are more intense than a simple eye twitch, so they can be quite problematic because they can severely impair vision. For this reason, it is important to treat essential blepharospasms if they occur. Treatment might consist of biofeedback or medication. In more extreme cases, surgery or botulinum injections might be necessary. Botulinum injections, often called Botox® injections, paralyze the muscles and thus can alleviate the eyelid spasms.

Eyelid spasms might be caused by fatigue.
Eyelid spasms might be caused by fatigue.

A third type of eyelid spasm is a hemifacial spasm. These, like the essential blepharospams, are more severe than the eye twitch. They affect only one eye, but they also involve a twitching of the mouth on one side of the face. Hemifacial spasms usually occur because an artery is pressing against the nerve that controls the facial muscles.

Treatment of hemifacial spasms can be similar to the treatment techniques for essential blepharospasms. Botulinum can provide relief for the spasms, but it is more common for hemifacial spasms to require surgery. In this neurosurgical procedure, the surgeon relieves the pressure that the artery is placing on the nerve.

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Discussion Comments

fBoyle

I realize that this might not work for everyone, but in my case, treating vitamin deficiencies treated my eyelid spasms completely.

When I started getting the spasms, I did all the routine recommendations like getting more sleep and avoiding caffeine and sugar but it didn't work. Even my eye doctor wasn't able to do anything, he said it was due to stress and suggested more exercise.

I then went to an endocrinologist and he requested blood tests. The results showed that I had iron and and magnesium deficiency. He put me on supplements and I have not had eyelid spasms since.

I urge everyone suffering from spasms to get a check-up and make sure that they do not have vitamin deficiencies.

ddljohn

@anamur-- That might be possible, especially if the medication has stimulant effects or affects the nerves. You should ask your doctor to make sure.

I experience eyelid spasms when I'm very tired and when I consume alcohol. It usually shows up after happy hour on Friday night. It goes away when I rest and re-hydrate with water.

serenesurface

Can medications cause eyelid twitching as a side effect?

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    • An eyelid spasm causes involuntary twitching.
      By: Delphimages
      An eyelid spasm causes involuntary twitching.
    • Prolonged eye strain can cause eyelid spasms.
      By: ArTo
      Prolonged eye strain can cause eyelid spasms.
    • Eyelid spasms might be caused by fatigue.
      By: oporkka
      Eyelid spasms might be caused by fatigue.
    • Muscle spasms can make the eyebrow twitch.
      By: Africa Studio
      Muscle spasms can make the eyebrow twitch.
    • Botox injections may offer relief from eyelid spasms.
      By: puhhha
      Botox injections may offer relief from eyelid spasms.
    • Eyelid spasms can be caused by eye strain from staring at a computer for too long.
      By: stokkete
      Eyelid spasms can be caused by eye strain from staring at a computer for too long.