Bodies do all sorts of weird, seemingly random things, but involuntary twitching has to rank among the weirdest ... and sometimes most annoying. Whether you've been staring at your computer screen too long or just minding your own business, you've probably experienced the bizarro phenomenon of myokymia, otherwise known as eyelid twitching.
For most people, this issue plays out as a spontaneous gentle tugging that occurs every few seconds for one or two minutes. In some cases, the twitch can recur over the next several hours, days — or even longer. When people experience myokymia, the eyelid of only one eye is affected (and it can be the upper or lower lid). The exact causes of myokymia aren't known, but experts say a slew of different triggers can set off a twitching spree, including:
- Alcohol or tobacco
- Too much caffeine
- Lack of sleep
- Eye irritation or strain
- Bright light
- Dry eyes
- Certain nutritional imbalances (like low magnesium)
For some people, the twitching is much more intense, occurring as spasms strong enough to force both eyes to completely shut; this is actually a separate condition known as blepharospasm. The exact cause of blepharospasm isn't known either, but it's considered a movement disorder affecting the muscles around the eye.
Eye twitching can also be a sign of other conditions like inflammation, dry eyes and glaucoma, and in super rare cases, can be a sign of a nervous system disorder like Bell's palsy or Tourette syndrome (but in those instances, the twitch is almost always accompanied by other signs and symptoms).
Eye twitching can also be a side effect of certain drugs, especially epilepsy and psychosis medications, but relax — most twitching scenarios aren't serious and go away on their own in a few days or weeks as long as you rest up, chill out and cut back on caffeine.
But if you notice any of the signs below, it's probably time to see a doctor:
- It's been a few weeks and the twitching still hasn't disappeared
- Every time your eye twitches, it shuts completely and you have a hard time opening it back up
- You're experiencing twitching in other areas of your face and body too
- Your eye is swollen, red or has discharge
- Your eyelids have started to droop