This week, Michael Campbell, an optometrist at Optical Solutions on Hilton Head Island, discusses the causes and cures for the ever-annoying eye twitch.
Question. Eye twitches seem to start randomly and are nearly unbearably obnoxious. What causes them and what on earth can be done to stop them?
Answer. Eye twitching, medically known as myokymia, is the instantaneous quivering, or fine contractions, of the eyelid muscles. Usually muscle weakness or atrophy is not associated with the condition. Symptoms are normally unilateral and associated with the orbicularis oculi muscle of either lower eyelid. On rare occasions, the upper eyelids may be involved. Another eyelid condition called blepharospasm affects both eyes at the same time.
Myokymia is a benign phenomenon normally not associated with any disease. There are rare episodes showing myokymia as a precursor to blepharospasm, Meige's syndrome or spastic-paretic facial muscle contractions.
The physiological changes that cause myokymia are not definitely understood, but the fine muscle contractions are transient and intermittent. Nerve fibers in the eyelid muscles seem to be irritated and fire randomly. Suggested causes of myokymia include stress, fatigue or lack of sleep, poor nutrition and excessive caffeine or alcohol intake.
Treatment for myokymia is fairly nonspecific. The condition typically lasts two to three weeks or less. Reassurance and reduction in causative factors are recommended. Minor cases seem to respond to quinine or Benadryl ingestion. Severe or recurrent cases may require Botox injections to provide relief to the involved eyelid.
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