When I thought this was makeup I thought it was crazy cool but when I found out it was a tattoo all I could think about is how painful and dangerous getting your eyeLIDS tattooed would me. I mean, one wrong slip with the needle and you’re blinded! Or you just got free Lasik!
This morning I spent several minutes staring intently at my own face. I wasn’t putting on makeup or popping zits* or even watching the color of my eyes lighten inexplicably. Rather I was watching my right eye spasm annoyingly every few seconds. Have you ever tried to put on mascara while your eye jumps around like Kriss Kross (may he rest in denim-clad peace)? Yeah, no.
I have an eye twitch. It sucks harder than 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. (Apparently I’m reliving my 90’s youth in song today. Feel free to finish this line in the comments!) And you probably know exactly what I’m going through because it seems like everyone gets the twitchy-twitchy at some point in their lives. Heck, even the wizard of all wizards Gandalf gets an eye spasm every time the ring “talks” in the movies.
It’s the worst. First, because I can see it and feel it every time it twitches, by day’s end I want to punch myself in the face. Second – and this is even worse – because no one else can see it! It’s like my own secret horror. Third, because eye twitches generally connote some kind of severe stress, mental imbalance or evil bent – at least in cartoons – and I think they might be right. On all three counts.
So I did what I always do when I have a medical condition I can’t solve with Airborne or acidophilus (seriously those two things alone take care of like 95% of my illnesses!): I Googled it. It turns out there are a lot more reasons besides stress and being a cartoon character that cause eye twitches. And because there are so many ways to develop one, there are lots of different ways to fix it. And you’ll be surprised to learn what actually helped me! I’d never heard of this cure before but as of this writing (10:30 at night) I’m twitch-free for the first time in two months.
And because I, I love you like a love song, baby, I’m sharing the top 10 causes of eye twitches and how to treat them.
Cure: The number one reason for a twitchy eye, or eye spasm, according to Dr. Monica L. Monica M.D., Ph.D., (nope, not a typo – she has the same first and last name. I didn’t ask her about it in our interview as I didn’t think it would be professional but I’m still kinda dying to know how that happened.) a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is stress. “Typically, the patient presents with the twitching for a week or so when something is troubling them, they are in final exams, or just not sleeping well.” In most cases she says the twitching resolves on its own within a couple of weeks once the stressful situation ends. In the meantime you should make every effort to reduce the stress in your life or practice other coping techniques like meditation.
Cure: “We all know how important rest is but it is just as important to actually believe it,” Dr. Julie Miller, Eye specialist and cosmetic surgeon with Associates in Plastic Surgery in New Jersey, explains. And your eyes need adequate rest just as much as the rest of you!
Cause: Jaw Clenching or Teeth Grinding
Cure: Some people tighten their jaw or grind their teeth in their sleep, called bruxism. Some people meaning me. Turns out this is my problem. I’ve always bruxed (bruxised?) but apparently all the strain on my jaw muscles caused my eye to twitch! (And I’m guessing all my stress with the move and everything probably made me clench my jaw more.) Taking steps to prevent it, like wearing a mouthguard at night, is the first thing to do. (Except I hate wearing mine.) In the meantime, doing a little self massage on your jaw – both inside and outside your mouth really helps. Sure it sounds a little icky to be sticking your fingers in your mouth but I swear it really helps!
Cause: Caffeine or Alcohol
Cure: The stimulants in caffeine and the relaxant properties of alcohol can both bring on a twitchy eye, especially when used in excess. “I know it is unrealistic for me to tell my patients to stay away from caffeine and alcohol,” Dr. Miller says. “But if you are have suddenly increased your normal intake you may want to scale back.” Also, when it comes to your liquid intake, it’s important to stay well hydrated with pure water and to stay away from real and artificial sugars,” adds Dr. Katrina Wilhelm, a board certified naturopathic physician.
Cause: Dry Eyes
Cure: Dr. Jeremy Fine, MD, a Los Angeles-based concierge doctor, says overly dry eyes “can be a result of getting older, contact lenses or certain medications.” He suggests changing your contacts as often as prescribed, and checking the side effects of any medications you take. Another trick you can try, according to Dr. Benjamin Ticho, MD, a board certified ophthalmologist and a partner at The Eye Specialists Center, is to “distract the brain by placing artificial tears or cold water in your eye.”
Cause: Eye Strain
Cure: Eye strain is caused from a number of things, Dr. Miller explains. Not wearing sunglasses on a bright day, not wearing the proper eyeglass prescription, sitting at your computer for hours on hours without an anti-glare cover over the screen, and smartphone or tablet useage are some of the most common reasons. “Give your eyes a break! Put on sunglasses, wear your eyeglasses and step away from the devices,” she adds.
Cause: Mineral Deficiencies
Cure: According to Dr. Fine, a magnesium deficiency is the most common nutritional imbalance leading to eye twitches. If the twitch persistently recurs or is really bothering you he suggests getting your magnesium levels tested and if you are deficient, an over the counter supplement is quick and easy. (Another good source of magnesium? Dark chocolate!)
Cure: As if your eyes aren’t already irritated enough during allergy season, sometimes all that pollen can make you twitchy too! “Be aware of allergy season and be sure to take your allergy medicine and keep your eyes hydrated,” Dr Miller advises.
Cause: “Essential” blepharospasm means your eye is twitchy for no apparent reason.
Cure: “Eye twitching is more common than you think. Nine out of 10 times it is nothing to worry about, it’s just more of an annoyance than anything else,” Dr. Fine says. The most common “prescription” is simply time. But if it’s really driving you nuts, you have one more option: Botox! Just like it freezes your muscles from making wrinkles, it can also freeze the muscle that is spasming. “Botulinum toxin lasts 2 to 6 months,” Dr. Ticho explains. “Botox was ‘invented’ by a pediatric ophthalmologist to fix crossed eyes [and] I’ve been using it successfully for more than 20 years.” Dr. Fine adds that it’s important to find a qualified professional to do this since improperly administered botox can make your eye droopy.
Other Causes: Sometimes an eye twitch can be indicative of a larger medical problem. Hypoglycemia, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s Syndrome, and neurological dysfunction can cause your eye to spasm.
Cure: If you’ve tried all the above remedies and haven’t found relief and/or have other worrisome symptoms see your doctor immediately. Also, when I was researching this piece for Shape (an excerpt appears on their site) I got a really sweet note from a man telling me about his lifelong struggle with being bullied for his Tourette’s Syndrome of which his eye tic was one of the most notable features. So if you need support resources for eyelid twitching associated with Tourette’s, check out Mark Horner’s site.
Any of you had an eye twitch? What worked for you to stop it? How do you feel about zit-popping: Love it or hate it?
*I actually can’t stand to pop my own zits or watch others pop theirs. I think I was scarred by watching a guy pop one at the gym so hard that it splattered on the mirror on the weight floor. Full-body shudder inducing. You’re welcome.