What causes eye twitching?

The most common causes of eye twitching are caffeine, fatigue, anxiety and stress. Eye twitching may appear in response to irritation caused by smoke, dust, or a foreign body in the eye. Allergies and infections may also cause irritation that leads to twitching. Eyelid twitching may be a symptom of neurologic disorders such as facial tics, chronic or transient motor tic disorders, attention-deficit disorder, or more serious conditions such as stroke, dystonia, tardive (slow or belated onset) dyskinesia, Tourette’s syndrome, or Aicardi syndrome (rare organic brain disorder acquired in early childhood).

Most common causes of eye twitching

Eye twitching is most frequently caused by minor temporary conditions including:

  • Anxiety
  • Caffeine overuse
  • Fatigue
  • Irritants such as smoke or dust
  • Stress

Ophthalmologic causes of eye twitching

Eye twitching can be caused by other conditions affecting the eye or muscles around the eye including:

  • Allergies
  • Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid margin)
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye surface)
  • Corneal abrasion or ulcer (causes pain with blinking)
  • Dry eyes
  • Foreign body in the eye
  • Primary congenital glaucoma

Neurologic causes of eye twitching

More persistent eye twitching, or twitching in which the eyelid completely closes, may be a symptom of a neurologic disorder including:

  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Blepharospasm (involuntary spasm or twitching of the eyelid)
  • Chronic motor tic disorder
  • Facial tic
  • Stroke
  • Tardive (slow or belated onset) dyskinesia
  • Tourette’s syndrome

Serious or life-threatening causes of eye twitching

In more rare cases, eye twitching may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Aicardi syndrome (rare organic brain disorder acquired in early childhood)
  • Seizure disorder
  • Stroke

Questions for diagnosing the cause of eye twitching

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your eye twitching including:

  • When did you first notice your eye twitching?
  • Is your eye twitching constant, or does it come and go?
  • Do you have any other symptoms that involve your eyes?
  • How much caffeine do you consume?
  • Have you had a severe headache?
  • Have you had any recent numbness, weakness or paralysis in your face?
  • Are you having any difficulty with speech?
  • Are you having difficulty with muscle coordination? Any muscle weakness?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of eye twitching?

Only in rare instances is eye twitching due to a serious disorder, such as stroke or glaucoma.

In such cases, however, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Corneal abrasion, ulcer or scarring
  • Loss of vision and blindness

References:

Eye problems. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/505.html. Accessed May 2, 2011.

Eyelid twitch. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000756.htm. Accessed May 2, 2011.

INTRODUCTION

What is eye twitching?

Eye twitching is a series of rapid, uncontrolled contractions or spasms of one or both eyelids. The twitches often occur in irregular rhythms. Sometimes the term eye twitching is used to describe blepharospasm, a condition characterized by increased involuntary eye blinking. Blepharospasm is classified as a dystopia, a disorder in which the nervous system signals muscles to contract inappr... Read more about eye twitchingintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with eye twitching?

Eye twitching may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the eye may also involve other body systems.... Read more about eye twitchingsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Eyes and Vision


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