Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eye Twitch-Help, My Eye is Twitching!

Every now and then my husband complains to me that his eye is twitching and could I please do something to stop it. I tell him the same thing every time it happens....an eyelid twitch is harmless, will go away on its own, and has no real treatment.  He never seems to be satisfied with that answer, which is probably why he keeps asking me the same question each time.

An eyelid twitch is repeated firing of the orbicularis muscle, the muscle that encircles the eye and is responsible for closing the eye. Most of the time, the spasms are twitches of one or both lids that may continue on and off for a few days and resolve on their own. These are most often caused by fatigue, stress, dry eye, eye irritation and excess caffeine intake.  While these twitches can be annoying, they are harmless and the treatment is aimed at treating the underlying cause; using eye lubrication, avoiding caffeine, and decreasing (or at least trying to) stress and fatigue are recommended.

However, sometimes the spasms are so strong that they actually cause the eye to close.  Blepharospasm is actually a medical condition where there is uncontrolled episodic contraction of both eyes, at times so strong that it is difficult to open the eyes. This is thought to be a problem with the basal ganglia in the brain and usually starts in the 50s-70s. There is a related condition called Hemifacial spasm, where instead of both eyes squeezing shut only one eye is affected along with one side of the face, often times the corner of the mouth.  In these more severe cases, the spasms can be treated with botulinum toxin injections into the abnormally firing muscles.

Unfortunately, when I tell my poor miserable husband that he has to cut back on stress, get more sleep, drink less caffeine and use artificial tears, he just looks at me incredulously and says, "Oh, is that all?!"