Causes of Eye Twitching

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Is that eye twitch of yours harmless or something you should be concerned about? This lesson explains the two major forms of eye twitching and their causes.

Stress & Eye Twitching

The last time something really stressed you out, what did you feel and experience? Maybe some anxiety, fatigue, or anger. How did your muscles feel? They were probably quite tense. Perhaps you even noticed that your eye twitched, and it kept twitching until you got some much needed rest. Well, stress is only one cause of eyelid twitching. Actually, we first need to carefully define what an eye twitch actually is and then we'll go over some more causes of eye twitching.

Technical Terminology

What most people call an eye twitch may actually refer to one of two largely separate conditions. One of them is called eyelid myokymia. Myokymia is a word that refers to the fine twitching of some muscle fibers that are involuntary and often continuous. If it's solely your eyelid that sort of ripples like a wave in a very fine, tremor-like fashion, then this is an example of eyelid myokymia. Myo- means 'muscle' and -kymia comes from the Greek for 'wave,' kyma.

However, eye twitching doesn't have to involve one eyelid alone. Another type of eye twitching is a form of dystonia called blepharospasm. Dystonia is a word for a group of disorders that have continuous or intermittent involuntary muscle contractions, resulting in abnormal, repetitive body movements. Dys- means 'bad' or 'disordered' and -tonia refers to 'muscle tension.' Again, with respect to eye twitching, the specific form of dystonia in question here is called blepharospasm, where blepharo- means 'eyelid' and 'spasm' refers to a sudden, involuntary, and sometimes severe muscular contraction.

A blepharospasm will cause a person to increase their rate of blinking and may lead to the involuntary and persistent closure of their eyes. Because of the latter, it may lead to functional blindness. Meaning, the person won't be blind because something is wrong with their eyeballs or optic nerve, but they won't be able to see if their eyelids close completely!

In a very basic sense, a blepharospasm is a more severe form of eyeld myokymia. However, keep in mind that these conditions are not the same and may or may not be related to a similar underlying problem when they do occur. Usually, eyelid myokymia is harmless while a blepharospasm may signal a serious nervous system disorder.

Causes Of Eyelid Twitching

Let's paint a picture of what may cause eye twitching or make it worse. Let's say you get up in the morning fatigued. You decide to stock up on a large amount of caffeine as a result. You then go to work at a warehouse where you do a lot of heavy lifting in a dusty, windy, and very bright environment. You come home, completely stressed out, and decided to relax by having a cold beer and a smoke. Well, you just did yourself in. Fatigue, caffeine, physical exertion, wind, bright lights, stress, alcohol, and smoking are all tied to eyelid twitching.

There's more, of course. Sometimes, there is no known cause for eyelid twitching. In other instances, dry eyes or taking certain medications may precipitate eyelid twitching. In rare cases, blepharospasm may be caused by serious nervous system disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Tourette syndrome, stroke, or multiple sclerosis.

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