What Causes Eye Twitching?

By Jennifer Nadel, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
May 23, 2022

Most people have experienced an eye twitch or spasm at some point in their lifetime.

This involuntary blinking, closing, or movement of the eye is often caused by stress, tiredness, or excessive consumption of caffeine. In some cases, eye twitching can be a sign of an underlying condition. 

Understanding the different types of eye twitches and spasms and their causes can help you to identify whether a consultation with your healthcare provider is needed or whether the twitching will go away on its own.

What Is Eye Twitching?

Eye twitching is an eyelid spasm or eye muscle movement that occurs involuntarily. It is also called blepharospasm. 

It is common for the eyes to twitch occasionally, often due to stress, fatigue, and caffeine consumption.

But, in some cases, it can be caused by underlying conditions such as irritation of the cornea.

The risk of benign blepharospasm (increased involuntary contraction of the muscles of the eye) increases as a person ages.

According to studies, it is more common in females and occurs more in people aged 50 and above. 

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Types of Eye Twitches

There are three main types of eyelid twitches or spasms:

  1. General eyelid spasm 
  2. Benign essential blepharospasm
  3. Hemifacial spasm

General Eyelid Spasm

A general eyelid spasm (also known as an eyelid twitch or tic) is a common spasm that causes the eyelid to move or close quickly and briefly.

This type of spasm doesn’t affect your vision.

General eyelid spasms are usually minor and go away on their own within a few days without treatment.

The most common causes of general eyelid spasms are tiredness, stress, and excessive consumption of caffeine and/or alcohol.

Because of the causes of general eyelid spasms, rest, adequate sleep, stress reduction, and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake are the most effective strategies for stopping general eyelid spasms. 

Benign Essential Blepharospasm

Benign essential blepharospasm is when one or both of the eyelids close involuntarily.

Unlike a general eyelid spasm, this spasm can last longer, up to a few hours, limiting or completely blocking your vision. Other muscles in the face may also be affected.  

This type of spasm is the major symptom of blepharospasm, a movement disorder that causes involuntary and frequent blinking, twitching, squeezing, and closing of the eyelids.

The condition is most common among the female gender who are in their forties to sixties, but the condition can also run in families.

Other symptoms of blepharospasm can include:

  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Difficulty doing everyday tasks, like driving, reading, or walking
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye irritation that’s worsened by wind, pollution, sunlight, and other irritants
  • Difficulty keeping eyes open
  • Vision impairment

Hemifacial Spasm

A hemifacial spasm occurs when muscles on one side of your face tighten (including the muscles along your cheek, mouth, and neck), causing spasms that begin near your eye and then affect other parts of your face.

Similar to benign essential blepharospasm, a hemifacial spasm can last much longer than a general eyelid spasm.

Symptoms of Eye Twitching

The major symptoms of eye twitching are:

  • Twitching or spasm around the eyes 
  • Facial spasms

However, additional symptoms can also occur, including:

  • Light sensitivity (photophobia)
  • Repeated involuntary twitching or spasms of the upper eyelid
  • Blurred vision

Keep in mind that these symptoms can also indicate other conditions, which is why it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider when you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they don’t resolve on their own immediately.

Causes of Eye Twitching 

There are many possible causes of eye twitching, depending on the type of twitch or spasm present.

Some of these underlying causes may warrant medical attention, which is why consulting with a medical provider can help determine the right course of treatment for your symptoms.

Possible causes of eye twitching include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Overconsumption of caffeine and/or alcohol
  • Blepharospasm
  • Abnormality in the nerve that connects to the facial muscles  
  • Irritation of the cornea (surface of the eye)
  • Irritation of the conjunctiva (membranes lining the eyelids)

How to Stop Eye Twitching

General eyelid spasms usually go away on their own.

Getting plenty of rest, avoiding stress, and limiting alcohol and caffeine can help to stop general eyelid spasms within a day or two.

On the other hand, benign essential and blepharospasm and hemifacial spasms usually don’t resolve on their own. They need to be treated by a healthcare professional.

There are several treatment options for benign essential blepharospasm and hemifacial spasms.

Your doctor will know the best treatment to target the type of eye twitch that affects you.

Diagnosis

Making an appointment with your healthcare provider or ophthalmologist is essential to getting a diagnosis of the underlying cause of your eye twitching.

To make a diagnosis, you will undergo a detailed eye exam and may also have a physical exam. 

Treatment Options

A common treatment option for benign essential blepharospasm and hemifacial spasms is an injection of Botox (botulinum toxin).

This injection works to relax the muscles and muscles around the eyes and face.

After the injection, spasms can disappear as early as one day after treatment but can take as long as two weeks to provide relief. Each injection can keep spasms at bay for about three months.

If Botox injections don’t provide relief for your blepharospasms, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication.

Drug treatments can also be used for the treatment of hemifacial spasms, but most people find that Botox injections work well.

Though less common, surgery is another option for blepharospasms and hemifacial spasms. 

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When To See a Medical Provider

It’s important to be evaluated by your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing an eye spasm or twitching that doesn’t go away on its own or if you’re experiencing other symptoms, such as photophobia or dry eyes. 

Additional symptoms that warrant medical attention include:

  • Twitching that completely closes your eyelid
  • Twitching that includes other parts of your face or body
  • Redness, swelling, or discharge from the eye
  • Drooping upper eyelid
  • A change in vision

Speaking with a healthcare provider can help you to identify the underlying cause of your twitching and which treatment options are right for you.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and, if needed, text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I be worried about eye twitching?
General eye twitching usually goes away on its own after a few days. Common causes of general eye twitching include tiredness, stress, and overconsumption of alcohol or caffeine. But if you’re experiencing eye twitching that doesn’t go away after a few days, or any other additional symptoms like sensitivity to light, dry eyes, or a change in vision, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider.
What does an eye twitch indicate?
General eye twitches or tics are usually a sign of lack of sleep, stress, or excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption. In some cases, it could be a sign of cornea or conjunctiva irritation.
What gets rid of eye twitching?
If you’re experiencing a general eye tic or twitch, getting plenty of rest and avoiding stress and excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine can help to get rid of the twitch. However, some causes of eye twitching may warrant medical attention, so be sure to reach out to your provider if the twitching continues for several days.
Is eye twitching a vitamin deficiency?
There isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that a vitamin deficiency can cause eye twitching.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Jennifer Nadel, MD

Dr. Jennifer Nadel is a board certified emergency medicine physician and received her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine. She has worked in varied practice environments, including academic urban level-one trauma centers, community hospital emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, telemedicine, EMS medical control, and flight medicine.