We all blink about 15 times a minute, 900 times an hour, nearly 15,000 times during 16 waking hours every day. Normally, our eyelids meet, briefly coat the surface of the eye with healthy tears, quickly separate, and we don’t give them any thought. But what happens when eyelids don’t work that way? What happens if an eyelid twitches, droops or closes without immediately opening again? Our body is sending a message about a problem that’s often easy to resolve but could sometimes be dangerous to ignore
Common Causes Of Eyelid Twitches
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Eyelid twitches fall into three basic categories. First, they may be a temporary condition. Commonly, a bunch of tiny muscles in the lid contract at random causing spasms. Contributing factors include:
- An excess of alcohol or caffeine
- Inadequate sleep
- Improper nutrition
- Too much time spent gazing at computer screens. (Try closing your eyes for 20 seconds every 20 minutes to rest them or focusing for 20 seconds on an object 20 feet away.)
Less commonly, an eyelash points the wrong way and creates persistent irritation. Those problems may go away on their own, or changes in diet and behavior should set things right.
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The second category is Blepharospasms, which last longer and have more force, closing the eye for seconds or even minutes. Though they may also resolve on their own, doctors often treat them with periodic Botox injections to prevent muscles from contracting.
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The third category, hemifacial spasms, affect one side of the face. In those cases, imaging will tell a doctor whether Botox would address the problem; surgery may be needed to relieve pressure from an aneurysm in a facial nerve.
Generally, race and age do not seem to be determining factors. Women experience eyelid twitches more than men, especially later in life, though doctors do not know why. People with naturally dry eyes are susceptible.
Eye Exam For Diagnosis
Eye exams often reveal clues to other conditions in the body, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or autoimmune diseases. Eyelid twitches seldom indicate anything drastic. But in rare cases, they can be early indicators of neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. If an eye doctor suspects these conditions, s/he will recommend a neurological analysis, especially if twitches are accompanied by unusual muscle fatigue, instability while walking and other symptoms.
Most patients safely wait out eyelid twitches on their own. However, schedule an urgent appointment with an ophthalmologist if certain signs accompany your twitches:
- Lids remain drooped or closed
- Eyes get redder than usual
- You have extreme sensitivity to light or foreign bodies in the eye
- You’re in pain
- You have worsening vision or double vision