Eyelid fluttering or twitching, called myokymia, often starts suddenly and seemingly from nowhere. Lid myokymia generally affects only one eye and should not be confused with blepharospasm, a more forceful closure of the lids, always affecting both eyelids. According to the Mayo Clinic, lid twitching is often associated with lifestyle choices and other external factors and is usually benign. Relief of the underlying triggers of myokymia can help alleviate lid twitching symptoms.
Grabbing that can of soda or coffee may help keep you going throughout the day, but it can also get your eyelid muscles working overtime. When overstimulated, the neuron muscle cells of your lids respond by overfiring, and sudden twitching can occur. Fortunately, the lid twitch will feel more severe and noticeable to you than to anyone looking at you, and reducing your caffeine intake can help.
Stress and Anxiety
If you are feeling overworked or are under pressure at school, at work or at home, you may feel extra stress. You can add lid myokymia to the long list of consequences of stress. According to the Review of Optometry, in times of stress, lid myokymia symptoms tend to worsen. When you notice your lids twitching, it can be a wake-up call that stress has entered your life.
While stress refers to a whole body reaction to overwhelming situations in life, eyestrain refers to the stressful reaction of your visual system. In the age of increasing computer, video game and television usage, our eyes can easily take a hit. Sometimes the overload can cause your eyelids to react and start to twitch.
Often linked to stress, a lack of sleep can affect your whole body, including your eyelids. A tired body does not operate optimally and starts to show outward signs of this fatigue in symptoms like lid spasms. Increasing your sleep, if it’s not meeting the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendation of seven to nine hours per night, may be helpful.
Alcohol and Tobacco
Sometimes the use of alcohol and tobacco products can cause the lids to start twitching. There is no definitive amount or particular substance known to trigger myokymia, but the intake of a foreign substance may cause lid twitching in some individuals. Interestingly, the intake of alcohol and tobacco increases with stress, so these overlapping behaviors can build upon the other to intensify lid twitching symptoms.
Irritated Ocular Surface
If the surface of your eyes or inner eyelids is irritated, your lids may start reacting by twitching. Conditions such as dry eye, a foreign body or an eye allergy can cause myokymia. If your sudden onset of myokymia coincides with a feeling of irritation and discomfort in your eyes, getting an eye exam is a good idea. Treating the underlying cause with an antihistamine or artificial tear eye drops can help. Conversely, not treating the underlying condition can cause further eye symptoms and the possible onset of blepharospasm.
Eyelid myokymia usually affects healthy 20- to 40-year-olds. Myokymia of the eyelids alone, without other symptoms like facial spasms, eye discharge or lid drooping, is usually nothing to worry about and is more annoying than anything else. If the aggravation of this symptom is bothersome, getting your eyes checked is a good idea. Even if you do nothing, benign lid myokymia typically resolves on its own in days to months.
- All About Vision: Eye Twitching and Eyelid Twitching
- Mayo Clinic: Eye Twitching
- “The Wills Eye Manual”; Douglas Rhee and Mark Pyfer, ed.; 1999
- National Sleep Foundation: How Much Sleep Do We Need
Pia Grant has been a freelance writer since 2007, writing on topics of health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Her clients include websites, businesses and newspapers, including "The Voice" and "The Alumni." She has a doctorate degree in the health sciences and attended Loyola University.