Raise your hand if you’ve ever been minding your own business when suddenly, your eye starts to twitch. You try rubbing away the spasm, but it strikes back again and again. You’re likely searching for answers to “why does my eye twitch?” and when to worry about eye twitching, but don’t panic. It’s actually pretty common.
“An eyelid twitch, often referred to as a repetitive and involuntary contraction, involves the orbicularis oculi muscle that controls eyelid movement,” says Inna Lazar, OD, an optometrist and founder of Greenwich Eye Care. “Typically affecting the upper eyelid, this twitch can impact both the upper and lower lids, and the severity of eye twitching varies significantly, ranging from subtle movements that are hardly perceptible to more pronounced and disruptive spasms,” she explains.
To break this down a bit more, the orbicularis oculi is a very fine muscle around your eyes, right under the eyelid skin, that is responsible for eyelid closing and blinking, says Julia Giyaur, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist and founding director of New York Laser Vision Aesthetics. “Eyelid twitching happens when a few fibers of the muscle contract abnormally, and because the muscle is right under the eyelid skin, these small contractions can usually be seen from the outside by a careful observer.”
That said, eye twitching is fairly common and can last anywhere from a few seconds to hours, says Vincent Dagron, OD, an optometrist and founder of Hyaestic. And while annoying, it’s typically painless, he adds.
Wondering why your eye is twitching for days and how to stop the pesky spasm? Ahead, experts weigh in on the most common eye twitching causes and how to stop eye twitching.
Why Does My Eye Keep Twitching?
Eye twitching can be pretty uncomfortable and frustrating, especially when you’re not sure what’s causing it. So what does eye twitching mean? According to experts eye twitching — including upper eyelid twitching, under eye twitching for days, and right and left eye twitching — can happen for a number of reasons. Here are 7 of the most common eye twitching causes, according to experts.
Eye fatigue or eye strain is a common cause of eye twitching that is triggered by overstimulation of the eye muscles, Dr. Giyaur says. This can be from looking in one place for too long, or staring at a phone, TV, or computer screen for an extended period of time, she explains. Depending on your lifestyle, eye fatigue can come and go for days, weeks, or months, she adds.
“Overall stress increases your adrenaline levels that can cause overstimulation of muscle around the eyes,” says Dr. Giyaur. Stress-related anxiety can also induce eye twitching thanks to the increased adrenaline (like before a meeting or big test), which leads to sensitivity and irritability in the eye muscles and causes the eyelids to involuntarily react, Dr. Dagron adds.
Attention coffee lovers! Your excessive espresso may be to blame for your pesky eye twitch. “The caffeine can stimulate your nervous system and the effects of the caffeine on your body may cause your eyelids to twitch,” Dr. Dagron says. “This is also because of the hyperactivity of the nerves and muscles around the eyelid kicking into high gear,” he says. Eye twitching due to caffeine usually lasts as long as it’s in your system, so if you notice symptoms post cold brew, it’s probably time to scale back, Dr. Giyaur adds.
Dry Eye Syndrome
Poor tear production can cause dryness on the surface of the eye and is a common cause for eye twitching, says Dr. Giyaur. Luckily, the twitching is typically resolved after the dry eye is treated, so talk to your doctor about over-the-counter or prescription artificial tears, she adds.
“If your eye is in contact with environmental irritants such as bright fluorescent lights, air pollution, ‘getting something in your eye’, or even strong winds, it may become irritated and twitch,” says Dr. Dagron. Why? When these environmental irritants get into your eyelid, it causes inflammation and redness in the eye, which triggers your muscles to react and twitch, he explains.
Inflammation on the surface of your eye from allergies can also induce eye twitching, but typically goes away once the underlying cause is treated and/or allergy symptoms are managed, Dr. Giyaur adds.
When you’re sleep deprived, your body reacts to staying awake for too long and your nervous system kicks into high gear which leads to eye twitching, Dr. Dagron says. Extreme fatigue and over-exhaustion can also lead to eye dryness, which only worsens symptoms, adds Dr. Giyaur.
Nutrient deficiencies, especially in magnesium, can lead to eye twitching since magnesium helps regulate your muscles and nerve function, Dr. Lazar says. As a result, it’s extra important to eat a balanced diet and incorporate magnesium-rich foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, and spinach, she explains.
How to Stop Eye Twitching
The first and easiest solution to stop eye twitching is to evaluate your lifestyle, says Dr. Dagron. Cut back on caffeine, get at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night, reduce stress, and maintain a balanced diet, he explains. It’s also best to take five-minute breaks every 20 to 30 minutes when reading or using a computer, Dr. Giyaur adds.
If your eye twitching is allergy-related, Dr. Lazar recommends Pataday Eye Allergy Itch Relief to soothe symptoms and calm irritation. Applying a cold or warm compress to the eye can also help calm the eyelid, adds Dr. Dagron.
Eye drops are another gold-standard treatment to address twitching induced by eye dryness, says Dr. Lazar. Just be sure to opt for brand-name eye drops like Refresh or Ivizia for maximum effectiveness and safety, she adds.
Lastly, Dr. Lazar says to drink tonic water. “One of the most effective methods to reduce eye twitching is tonic water due to the anecdotal benefits of quinine in alleviating chronic eyelid twitching,” she explains. Just be cautious of allergies to quinine, and remember, it’s just tonic water, not gin and tonic, she adds.
When to See a Doctor About Eye Twitching
If your eye twitching persists for more than one to two weeks, worsens over time, or disrupts daily life, it’s time to see your doctor, Dr. Lazar says. “It’s particularly important to note if eyelid twitching is severe enough to cause your eyelids to completely close or if you have difficulty opening the eye,” she explains. “Occasional eye twitching is common and usually harmless, but any twitching that lasts more than a couple of weeks or is accompanied by the symptoms mentioned above warrants medical attention to rule out more serious conditions.”
Additionally, it’s time to see a healthcare professional if the twitching spreads to other parts of the face or body, or is accompanied by redness, swelling, discharge, or vision changes, Dr. Lazar says. From there, your doctor will do a thorough eye exam and medical history to determine the cause of your twitch and a proper treatment plan, adds Dr. Giyaur.