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From stress to dry eyes, many things can set off the tiny muscles in your eyelids. Here are four ways to stop them from spasming.
You could be sitting there minding your own business when suddenly your eyelid starts to twitch uncontrollably. If it’s never happened to you before, you might wonder what is going on.
Probably nothing serious, it turns out. In fact, a twitchy eyelid is so common that it’s the most frequent eye-related search on Google, says Jeff Foster, O.D., an optometrist at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in San Antonio, Texas. “At some point, everybody will experience it,” he adds.
But since no one is fond of a jumpy eyelid, read on to see what might be causing it — and some ways to stop the twitch.
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What Triggers Eye Twitch?
All sorts of factors. “The muscles in the eyelids are some of the thinnest and smallest in the body, and it’s easy for them to get strained and overworked,” Dr. Foster says. As soon as that happens, those muscles (usually the ones in the lower lid) can start moving uncontrollably.
Eye doctors refer to it as myokymia. Here are some of the things that can trigger it:
- Too much caffeine
- Too little sleep
- Dry eyes
If stress or too little sleep is the reason that your eyelids are twitching uncontrollably, for more than a week, it’s time to prioritize self-care. And you might want to cut back on the caffeine while you’re at it.
But managing stress and logging more snooze time is easier said than done. Luckily, those lifestyle changes aren’t the only solutions you can try. There are also four fixes to work into your day to give those eyelid muscles some relief, especially if the twitching has been going on for more than a few days.
Recommended reading: 8 Surprising Reasons Your Eyelid Is Twitching
1. Sip Tonic Water
This might sound strange at first. But tonic water contains quinine, which is a muscle relaxant, Dr. Foster says. A study published in Clinical Ophthalmology found that drinking one or two glasses a day for a few days could help people whose eyelids are chronically jumpy.
Before you take a drink, though, check to see if you have any health reasons to avoid quinine. People with abnormal heart rhythms or kidney disease, as well as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, should avoid quinine because it can be toxic.
2. Cool Your Eyelids
Soak a washcloth in cool water, wrap a bag of frozen veggies in a towel, or get a gel eye mask. Then place it over your eye for 10 to 15 minutes. That cool comfort can help ease the spasms, Dr. Foster says. Just don’t make the washcloth, eye mask, or ice pack so cold that your eye feels like it’s freezing.
While you can do this at any time of day, many people like doing it at the end of the day when they can lie down.
3. Lubricate Your Eyes
Using artificial tears or antihistamine eye drops daily can also help calm those eye muscles, Dr. Foster says. Although antihistamine drops such as Zaditor, Pataday, and Alaway are generally used for seasonal allergies, “they’ve been proven to stop the twitching, even if not caused by allergies,” Dr. Foster explains. All three are sold over the counter (OTC).
If you have dry eyes, talk to your eye doctor. An optometrist can suggest OTC drops or prescribe some.
4. Cut Down Screen Time
If you’re like most people, you’re spending a lot of time on devices. But staring at a screen can lead to digital eyestrain, which can trigger twitches.
While you probably can’t live device-free, you can — and should — take frequent eye breaks from your screens. Follow the 20-20-20 rule, according to the American Optometric Association. Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off the screen and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
How Soon Will My Eyelid Twitch Go Away?
The good news is that most eyelid twitches are harmless and should disappear within about a week, Dr. Foster says.
But if you’ve tried these fixes and the twitch hasn’t gone away in a week or so, see your eye doctor. In rare cases, it can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as hemifacial spasm, a neuromuscular disorder in which muscles on one side of the face twitch.
Depending on the condition, you might be referred to a neurologist or ophthalmologist who can offer other treatments, such as Botox. Otherwise, think of your eyelid twitching as a message from your body — it needs a little more TLC.
Medically reviewed by Jeff Foster, O.D.
See our sources:
Tonic water for eyelid twitching: Clinical Ophthalmology
20-20-20 rule: American Optometric Association