Are You Experiencing Eye Twitching/Spasms?

There are many different kinds of muscle spasms that exist, ranging in intensity from mild twitches to severe pain.  The spastic muscle may feel harder than normal to the touch, and/or appear visibly distorted.  It may also show visible signs of twitching.  I treat TMD patients with eye twitching caused by the orbicularis muscles becoming spasmodic.

You may be wondering what causes eyelid/eyebrow twitching in the first place.  It can stem from a number of different things including the following:

  • Stress
  • Caffeine
  • Eyestrain
  • Medication
  • Fatigue
  • Magnesium deficiency

It could also be the result of an underlying condition like Tourette’s syndrome, MS, Parkinson’s, Bells Palsy, TMJ disorder or a sleep disorder.  Sometimes this twitching/spasm can last only a few minutes (or even just seconds), however sometimes it persists for several hours.  While these involuntary movements are typically painless, they are still an annoyance and can cause headaches, nausea and pain in/around the eye.

Blepharospasm, also known as BEB (benign essential Blepharospasm) is a condition where the eyelids close forcefully or spasm involuntarily.  It is a type of dystonia or condition characterized by unusual movements.  Dystonia is a neurological disorder causing involuntary muscle spasms and twisting/distortions of the limbs.  Sometimes, people with BEB experience muscle spasms that will spread beyond the eyelids to other facial muscles. This condition is twice as common in women as in men.

Sometimes, Botox injections can help reduce twitching, but a person may need additional treatments, as the effects of Botox wear off.  There is also a surgical procedure called a Myectomy where doctors remove muscles and nerves in the eyelids.  This would be a last resort.

In certain cases, an underlying TMJ disorder is the culprit of the twitching.  In that case, I would treat the patient with an intraoral appliance, physical therapy, trigger point injections or pharmaceuticals, just as I treat other TMJ patients.

Medications that can cause twitching/spasms include stimulants and antipsychotic medications used to treat OCD, ADHD, and other mood disorders such as Bipolar disorder.  And although it sounds like it doesn’t make sense, anti-seizure medications can also cause tics and tremors.  Diuretics may also lead to twitching and spasms, and can prompt magnesium deficiency.

It is not well known, but magnesium plays an important role in muscle and nerve function.  People who are deficient in magnesium and also experience other effects such as tremors, appetite loss, nausea, fatigue and weakness.  NIH recommends almonds, cashews, spinach, avocado, beans and soymilk as good sources of magnesium.

If you suspect that your medication is causing twitching, please talk to your doctor.  You may need a different type of medication, or a lower dosage, to avoid these effects.

Another cause mentioned above is eyestrain.  The majority of us are sitting in front of a computer every single day or reading text messages.  Our eye muscles become overworked and tired, so we should avoid sitting in front of our screens for hours at a time without a break.  Remember to get up and walk around periodically, and take breaks.  Additionally, make sure that you see your eye doctor regularly, as you may just need a new pair of prescription glasses or contacts.

When a person is tired, their eyes are more likely to twitch.  Getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night may help reduce eye twitching.  If you feel like you are getting 7-9 hours of sleep, but you’re still tired, you may have an underlying sleep disorder.

Stress can also affect the body and cause twitching/spasms.  Exercise, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, and other relaxation techniques have been known to lessen stress and reduce eyelid or eyebrow twitching.

White Sands says taking recreational drugs or abusing prescribed stimulant type drugs can cause eyelid twitching, just as too much caffeine can cause this.  Excess consumption of alcohol and cigarettes can also have the same effects.  Reducing or avoiding the consumption of these items will alleviate the spasms/twitching.

If you are experiencing twitching that lasts for more than a few weeks, eyelid drooping, swelling, redness, discharge or pain in the eye, please consult your doctor.  For more information on treatments for eye twitching as it relates to TMD and OSA, please visit our website at www.michiganheadandneck.com.