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Published June 27, 2012, 11:30 PM

Mathison: So ... why does my eye twitch?

Sometimes our bodies do odd things. A friend recently asked me about her twitchy eye, and my own eye muscles twitch once in a while. Have you ever wondered why?

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, Areavoices.com, INFORUM

Sometimes our bodies do odd things. A friend recently asked me about her twitchy eye, and my own eye muscles twitch once in a while. Have you ever wondered why?

The medical term is blepharospasm, and it describes annoying little twitches you get in our eyelid muscles. Basically, a muscle is firing under your skin, which is sometimes called a tic or spasm. It may cause you to blink or flutter your lashes. To me, it feels like little wings are flapping under the skin, without direction from me!

Blepharospasm usually lasts for a few hours up to a few days. In rare cases, it can be long term and require medical therapy. While usually just an inconvenience, it can be very bothersome, and may cause spasms strong enough to involuntarily close the eye. For one of my patients, it was trouble because it deterred her from beloved needlepoint projects.

Twitching usually occurs when we are tired or stressed. Eye strain can come from computer work, but bright lights and TV watching can also play a role. Caffeine and alcohol make it worse. Heredity may play a role in the development of eye twitching. Eye irritation can cause involuntary blinking in an attempt to lubricate and clear the eye.

Neurologic problems such as Tourette’s syndrome and Parkinson’s can also cause eye twitching. Bell’s palsy may cause drooping of the eyelids, but may initially may feel as though it is twitching. The entire side of the face may be involved in Bell’s palsy, but also may occur with muscle spasms and is then called hemi-facial spasm.

In most cases, the body is just saying that it needs a break. Take steps to decompress at the sign of one:

  • Rest and use cold compresses to sooth your eyes.

  • Play relaxing music.

  • Move away from the computer or TV screen, and focus on something else.

  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep.

If your eye twitching has not responded with self care after several days, check with your doctor to see if a further work-up is needed.

Oral medications taken for eye twitching are available but tend to give short-term improvement. It seems to work for 15 percent of patients who try it.

Botox injections have been well-studied for use in blepharospasm. In fact, it was patients being treated for this condition who told doctors that they were getting wrinkle relief as well as relief from the twitching. This treatment has a high satisfaction rate and works for many patients.

Myectomy, a surgical procedure to remove some of the muscles surrounding the eyes, is a possible treatment for those who’ve not had relief with less-invasive options.

This aggressive surgery has a success rate of improved symptoms in 75 to 85 percent of people with eye twitching.

Prevention is once again the best medicine when it comes to twitching.

Take care and rest your weary eyes, whether or not you have blepharospasm.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com.

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