Involuntary and repetitive eyelid spasms or blepharospasms happen for many reasons, and almost everyone will experience them at some point. Most of the time, they are not problematic and easy to control. In rare cases, however, blepharospasms can be a sign of a brain or nerve disorder.
Excess Energy or Fatigue
Excess energy can be due to many things, ranging from a temporary increase in physical activity to drinking a cup of coffee. The eyelids are one of the most common places to feel these temporary increases. For unknown reasons, eye twitches occur both during bursts of activity and advanced fatigue. This action on the eyelids could be related to activation of the brain regions innervating the eyelids.
The eye can experience irritation due to physical events or following conjunctivitis — an infection of the part of the eyes called the conjunctiva. Staring at a screen for too long can also cause irritation, to which the body responds by twitching. This effect can become chronic is the irritation persists for a prolonged period. Eventually, even without the stimulus, the eyelid may twitch.
Medication Side Effects
Some medications cause eyelid twitching, particularly ones that affect the cardiovascular system or treat mental illness. The chemical ingredients can cause irregularities in the nervous system, which may lead to eye twitching. If this is the cause, the complication will usually cease after the individual stops taking this medication.
Alcohol has a very destructive effect on the entire body. Excess intake can lead to poisoning, which affects the stomach, liver, bladder, and intestines. Alcohol consumption can also cause dry eyes, which can result in eye twitches.
Inflammation of the eyelid occurs when an individual has eyelash mites or lice in their facial hair. This can be made worse by a bacterial infection, medication side effects, or abnormally functioning oil glands. Both anterior and posterior eyelid inflammation can cause eyelid twitching, and the symptom will persist for as long as the condition itself. Blepharitis isn’t a complex disease, and it is quite easy to treat.
Most often, blepharospasms are attributed to fatigue, caffeine intake, or unidentified but spontaneously resolved issues. However, eyelid twitching can also be a symptom of a serious condition such as Bell’s palsy, which causes one side of the face to droop. The changes that occur as a result of the disease affect the nerves of the face, including the eyelids.
Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder, can cause eyelid twitching. In almost every recorded case, dystonia itself is a symptom of another disease, such as encephalopathy, a brain aneurysm, or Huntington’s disease. The condition causes involuntary and repetitive muscle contractions, and blepharospasms are often one of the first signs.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic illness of the central nervous system. A sudden change in body function causes the immune system to mistake a layer of tissue surrounding and protecting the nerve fibers — myelin — for an intruder. The symptoms and complications of MS differ, but 80% of people experience fatigue and difficulty walking. In some cases, blepharospasms are the first symptom.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is another nervous system disorder and affects at least 500,000 individuals in the United States alone. While there’s no known cause for PD as of yet, scientists suspect a mixture of genetics and environmental factors. Parkinson’s disease begins with relatively minor spasms and slower movement. It progresses into involuntary contractions of the entire body as the person ages. Many types of tremors can stem from PD, including eye twitching.
Another genetic disease with an unknown cause is Tourette’s syndrome, which causes involuntary and intense muscle contractions. Some people experience the more publicized version of the condition — verbal outbursts or sudden cursing. Like Parkinson’s, early Tourette’s can result in involuntary spasms of body parts including the eyelids.