Occasional eye twitches (myokymia) can be distressing. If you’ve noticed your own eyelids twitching, you may wonder, “Why is this happening?” Understanding the potential underlying causes of twitching eyes can help determine what you may be able to do about it.
At times eyelid twitching can be mild and go away on its own, as would be the case with some cases of eyelid myokymia. However, eye twitching may also indicate a more serious underlying problem. Particularly if eye twitching persists over time, it is important to seek medical attention or see your eye doctor for further assessment and diagnosis. In this article, we will explore some potential causes and connections between eye twitch and anxiety.
Is There A Link Between Anxiety And Eye Twitch?
Eye twitching has several potential causes. Stress and anxiety are certainly among these causes. Much of the time, eyelid twitching will resolve itself without treatment.
If twitching persists for several weeks, or it becomes difficult to open your eyes, you should contact your doctor. This will ensure you can identify and receive appropriate care for any potential underlying causes.
The Link Between Eye Twitching And Anxiety
Anxiety is associated with many physical symptoms, including tense muscles, lightheadedness, and increased blood pressure. The contraction and movement of eye muscles can be influenced by increased stress. Muscles tense when the sympathetic nervous system (or “fight or flight” response) becomes activated with anxiety. Overstimulation of eye muscles can lead to twitching.
Because of this connection, it is possible that taking steps toward managing anxiety can help improve eyelid spasms as well. However, if symptoms are not resolving within two weeks, one should consult a doctor to rule out other medical conditions.
Eye Twitching Symptoms
Eyelid myokymia is caused by involuntary repetitive contractions of muscle. The lower eyelid is affected most often, but the upper eyelid may be involved in some cases. The twitching itself is a symptom characterized by frequent blinking. It may also be associated with light sensitivity and swelling.
Benign essential blepharospasm is a more severe form of eye twitching in which the central nervous system sends rapid signals causing muscle spasms. This can lead to:
- Eye irritation.
- Functional blindness (inability to keep eyes open).
- Light sensitivity.
Eye irritation or the inability to open your eyes is more worrisome, so a more immediate visit to your doctor is advised rather than waiting for these symptoms to resolve on their own.
Eye Twitching Causes
There are a variety of potential causes of eye twitching. Some of these causes can be more benign, and symptoms may disappear independently without specific treatment. In some cases, eye twitching may be a symptom of an underlying nervous system disorder; however, additional help may be needed.
The exact cause of many mild cases of eye twitching is not always well-defined but can be attributed to
- Stress and anxiety.
- Eye irritation (Dry eyes, for instance).
- Illicit drug use.
You should contact your doctor to have your eye twitching diagnosed if you experience any of the following signs of more severe cases:
- Persistent eye twitching, lasting for weeks.
- Inability or difficulty opening your eyes.
Visiting your doctor can help you determine whether involuntary blinking may be associated with one of several nervous system disorders that include eye-twitching among their symptoms. Examples of disorders with the symptoms of prolonged eye twitching include:
1. Bell’s Palsy
Hemifacial spasms or paralysis (one side of the face) occurs with Bell’s Palsy due to damage to the facial nerve. This nerve damage causes involuntary contraction or relaxation of facial muscles, including those responsible for blinking. In most cases, Bell’s Palsy resolves within about three to six weeks. In more persistent cases, botulinum toxin is used to treat symptoms.
Dystonia describes repetitive muscle contractions. In some cases, these contractions involve or are isolated in the muscles controlling blinking.
3. Tourette Syndrome
A tic disorder with onset typically occurring in childhood, Tourette syndrome is associated with both verbal and motor tics. These motor tics can sometimes affect the eyelids.
4. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
MS is an auto-immune disorder causing nerve damage in the central nervous system. A wide array of symptoms is observed in MS patients, including muscle contractility symptoms that may affect eyelids.
6 Tips For Reducing Anxiety To Relieve Eye Twitching
If you have experienced occasional eyelid twitches and feel as though these may be related to stress, there are many steps you can take at home to reduce your stress and anxiety symptoms.
1. Improve Sleep Hygiene
Getting better sleep can help improve overall well-being and reduce stress. Sleep hygiene refers to a set of guidelines to follow for improved sleep. Some simple tips include turning off screens an hour before bedtime and setting a consistent bedtime each night to establish a consistent circadian rhythm.
2. Reduce Caffeine Intake
Drinking too much caffeine increases many of the physical symptoms associated with anxiety. These include elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, and muscle tension. Reducing caffeine consumption can positively affect stress levels, improving anxiety and eye twitching. Replacing coffee with herbal teas or other beverages effectively reduces caffeine intake for many individuals.
3. Get More Exercise
Different forms of exercise can be very beneficial for stress relief. The release of endorphins associated with more strenuous exercise produces an improved sense of well-being. Movement releases some of the tension we may be carrying. Activities as simple as walking and enjoying some fresh air can have a positive impact.
4. Mindfulness And Meditation
Practicing mindfulness is the act of focusing on the present moment. Many individuals managing anxiety worry about the future or ruminate (thinking repetitive thoughts focused on a particular topic). These cycles can be broken with mindfulness practices such as meditation or focusing exclusively on one task at a time.
5. Breathing Exercises
Learning breathing exercises can be a very helpful way to manage stress and anxiety, especially because these techniques can be employed quickly during certain high-stress situations. There are a variety of exercises to try, like box or square breathing or humming breath. Breathing exercises help ease symptoms of anxiety by counteracting the sympathetic nervous system. This helps to reduce muscle tension.
Seeing a therapist for anxiety management is an excellent approach to improving symptoms. There are a variety of forms of therapy. The most peer-reviewed form of anxiety therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and appointments can be attended in person or online.
Online therapy services have become more prominent recently, with organizations like Talkspace offering easy access. Individuals who would like alternative kinds of therapy may be interested in trying art therapy or music therapy.
7. Other Considerations
Prescribed medications are also often used to manage anxiety symptoms. These often include SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SNRIs or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, benzodiazepines, and other medications, including certain beta blockers like propranolol.
Some individuals also use over-the-counter products such as CBD for anxiety. If you choose to do this, remember that the most reliable CBD products are sourced by companies that submit to independent testing for quality assurance. Products manufactured in a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified facility are also more reliable. While the FDA does not directly evaluate the final product, guidelines are followed related to the manufacturing process and facilities.
Some nutrient deficiencies, like vitamin B12, are also associated with anxiety. Using a supplement or eating foods high in B12 could potentially provide some benefits.
Stress and anxiety can contribute to eye twitching, and various effective ways exist to manage underlying anxiety. In many cases, occasional eye twitching should not cause immediate concern and should resolve on its own. If twitching lasts several weeks or you have difficulty opening your eyes, you should contact a healthcare professional for professional support.
Frequently Asked Questions
Various medications may be associated with eye twitching, so if you have recently started a new medication and notice eye twitching has started to occur or is becoming more frequent, you should discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist. The most common medications that cause eye twitching are used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
Eye twitching can often go away independently without direct treatment like eye drops or additional medications and supplements. Stress reduction techniques may be helpful if you feel the symptoms may be related to anxiety. If eye twitching persists for several weeks, it is time to visit your doctor to determine whether there may be an underlying cause.
Facial spasms can be caused by disorders affecting both the facial muscles and nerves, like Bell’s Palsy. Ultimately, your doctor can help you determine the cause of eye twitching and facial spasms. Visiting your doctor will provide clarity for your best treatment options as well.
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