Eye twitching (blepharospasm) is an involuntary movement of the eyelid every few seconds over the course of a minute or two. Sometimes the spasm is strong enough to make your eyelid close completely before reopening.
Eye twitching can come and go unpredictably for a few days, weeks or months. The spasms don't hurt, but they can be annoying. In its most common form, eye twitching is harmless and stops on its own, although it may recur occasionally.
Sometimes, eye twitching may be the earliest sign of a chronic movement disorder, especially if other facial spasms develop in addition to the eye twitching. Usually, however, there is no identifiable cause.
Some of the causes of eyelid spasms that have been identified include:
- Alcohol intake
- Bright lights
- Caffeine intake
- Irritation of the eye surface or inner eyelids
- Lack of sleep
Chronic, uncontrollable eyelid movement affecting both eyes is known as benign essential blepharospasm. Although its exact cause is unknown, the following conditions may precede or accompany benign essential blepharospasm:
Very rarely, eye twitch may be a sign of certain brain and nervous system disorders. When it is, it's almost always accompanied by other signs and symptoms. Brain and nervous system disorders that can cause eye twitch include:
- Bell's palsy
- Cervical dystonia
- Multiple sclerosis
- Oramandipular dystonia and facial dystonia (a separate type of dystonia sometimes accompanied by blepharospasm)
- Parkinsonism: Causes and coping strategies
- Side effects of drugs, particularly medications used to treat epilepsy and psychosis
- Tourette syndrome
The Mayo Clinic warns that anyone who is concerned about eye twitching should work with their doctor to identify the cause.