Almost everyone has seen it at some point: An irregular twitching of the upper or lower eyelid, better known as an eye twitch. From time to time we have to deal with this phenomenon, which is not really disturbing but a bit annoying. But what is the cause of it, and how can we get it back on the web? There are a lot of causes for eye twitching, which are absolutely harmless in the vast majority of cases. In rare cases, however, they can be more serious diseases, which should be clarified by a neurologist.
Causes of eye twitches
The most common cause of eye twitching is overload in the broadest sense. This can be both physical and psychological. A stressful week or burnout syndrome can just as easily cause eye twitches as heavy physical activity or sports.
Especially in summer, heavy sweating can lead to an imbalance in the body’s salt balance. Sodium, potassium, and chloride are also excreted with sweat, minerals that the body urgently needs to transmit its nerve impulses. The impulse transmission of the nerves takes place, for example, through the fine control of sodium/potassium channels.
This transmission can be impaired if the body has lost too much fluid and minerals. The impulses cannot be passed on accordingly, resulting in muscle twitching. As both the upper and lower eyelids are opened by muscles, this results in eye twitching.
By the way, you can also observe something similar in other muscles of the body, especially the calf muscles like to twitch after a long hike. Besides the loss of minerals, stress and the so-called burn-out syndrome can also lead to eye twitches. This is due to the overexcitability of the nerves, very similar to the saying “the nerves are bare”.
Constant nerve impulses and too little sleep cause the nerve pathways to be overexcited. The only thing that helps here is to take a shorter step, both professionally and physically, since eye twitching is by far not the worst symptom caused by a permanent stress load. In any case, a twitching eye is usually not a symptom to worry about excessively.
It usually disappears within minutes to hours as suddenly as it appeared. However, if it does not subside for a long time (days), a visit to a neurologist or family doctor is recommended. In addition to the above-mentioned, easily treatable causes, eye twitching can then also be based on a more serious illness.
One of the most common triggers for eye twitches is stress. Tiredness and long, strained periods of looking at the computer screen also contribute to overloading the eye muscles. Often it is enough to relax for a short time and the annoying twitching of the eye disappears.
Chronic stress can cause the twitching to last for a long time. As this form of stress is very exhausting for the body and leads to health problems in the long run, those affected should definitely react. Relaxation methods, yoga and endurance sports such as running, cycling or swimming help to reduce stress and increase physical well-being.
If the eyelid twitches uncontrollably, this can sometimes be related to the neck. Although many people consider the eyes and neck to be functionally separate, there is a close connection and neck tension can have a major impact on the entire body. Poor posture and the resulting muscle tension can extend into the head and thus also affect the eye muscles.
As a result, eye complaints and eye twitching can occur. Accompanying symptoms are often headaches, dry eyes and visual problems. When the painful neck tensions are treated, the eye twitching usually also improves quickly.
Warmth, massages and endurance sports train the back and shoulder muscles and help against the tension. Contact lenses can cause tiny injuries to the cornea of the eye. This irritates the eye and the nerves send uncontrolled signals to the eye muscles, which then repeatedly contract rapidly.
If there is a corneal injury, those affected should first do without the lenses and switch to glasses. Normally the cornea regenerates very quickly (usually within 24 hours) in the case of minor damage and the annoying eye twitching disappears completely after a few hours or days. – The right contact lenses
- Adjusting contact lenses
Another cause of eye twitching can be increased or disproportionately long alcohol consumption over days.
In a certain sense, this is also a physical stress situation that is accompanied by a derailment of the electrolyte balance. If there has been high alcohol consumption in the last few days, eye twitching may well be a consequence. It is then sensible to limit alcohol consumption for the time being, not only because of the twitching eyes.
To treat the symptoms acutely, electrolyte solutions such as Elotrans are recommended. These are actually intended for electrolyte derailments after diarrhoea. However, alcohol consumption over several days is sometimes based on the same problem, an excessive excretion of electrolytes.
If it is not a matter of heavy alcohol consumption over several days but over several years, this is called alcoholism. For alcoholics, a twitching not only of the eyes but of the entire body (so-called withdrawal tremor) is very typical, especially in the withdrawal phases. Often alcoholics cover their entire calorie requirements through alcohol, and otherwise do not eat any food.
This leads to vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency. This also manifests itself through muscle twitching and loss of sensitivity. The eyes can also be affected.
You can get rid of the twitching in this case by substituting thiamine. In this case it is absolutely necessary for survival, because sooner or later all muscles – including the heart muscle – will fail. Withdrawal tremor is self-limiting, so it usually resolves itself within a week.
The drug Distraneurin can be administered as a support. To fight the cause, however, it is essential that the patient abstains from consumption. Eye twitching can also be caused by a thyroid gland dysfunction.
The thyroid gland is a small organ, about 20 ml in size, which lies in the area under the larynx. Its main function is the production of hormones, more precisely the hormones T3 and T4. Both are responsible for the energy metabolism in the body, and to a certain extent for the drive.
Excessive production of the hormones T3 and T4 leads, for example, to nervousness, sweating, palpitations, but also muscle twitching. The eye can also be affected by this muscle twitching. A twitching eye can therefore also be a sign of hyperthyroidism, i.e. an overactive thyroid.
However, there are a number of other questions that need to be clarified before a diagnosis can be made. The simplest method of clarifying hyperthyroidism is to diagnose it by means of a “small blood count”. This involves measuring the control hormone for the hormones T3 and T4, the TSH.
If it is too low, this indicates an excessively high level of the hormones T3 and T4. Finally, when T3 and T4 levels are high, the body shuts down the production of these hormones, which is done by lowering the TSH level. By the way, T3 and T4 are not determined directly, because a detection would cost several hundred Euros, while the TSH measurement is in the range of a few Euros.
An overactive thyroid gland can be present in the case of eye tremors, but it does not necessarily have to be the cause. In this case, you can get rid of the eye tremor by lowering the T3 and T4 levels. This is done with medication by taking appropriate preparations (so-called thyrostatics), and is a relatively frequent and uncomplicated therapy.
A clarification of the TSH values at regular intervals must, however, be carried out regularly by the family doctor. A lack of vitamins and minerals can lead to eye twitches. A vitamin B12 deficiency is often present.
Among other things, vitamin B12 is involved in blood formation and contributes to the functioning of the nerves. A deficiency leads to permanent exhaustion, fatigue and anaemia. The nerves can also be affected, which is why muscle twitching and sensations can occur.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is particularly common among vegans and vegetarians. However, young people or pregnant women also need more vitamin B12 due to the increased metabolic activity. Another cause of eye twitches is a lack of magnesium.
Magnesium is a mineral that we have to take in with our food and ensures that the transmission of stimuli from the nerves to the muscles works. Accordingly, a deficiency becomes noticeable by involuntary muscle twitches, eye twitches and muscle cramps. A balanced and varied diet helps to prevent malnutrition and provides the body with sufficient vitamins.
In the case of more severe deficiency symptoms, the missing vitamins can also be supplied in the form of preparations. The doctor can determine whether a vitamin deficiency is present and whether the eye twitching is due to it by means of a simple blood test. In very rare cases, eye twitching can also occur with multiple sclerosis.
In this rare disease of the nervous system, there is a progressive decrease in nerve conductivity due to inflammation. The optic nerve is relatively often affected by this, which can also manifest itself in eye twitching. However, this is rather unlikely: typical symptoms of optic nerve inflammation include limitations in vision itself, such as blurred vision or disturbances in colour vision.
It remains to be noted: In many cases the eye is already affected in the early stages of multiple sclerosis, but eye twitching is rather untypical for this – nevertheless, in some internet forums and information pages one reads the opposite. In the case of an eye twitch, multiple sclerosis is merely an exclusion diagnosis, i.e. a diagnosis that is only made when all other possible causes have been reliably excluded. In extremely rare cases, an eye twitch can also be an indication of a brain tumour.
This is a malignant tumour within the skull, which is growing and displacing healthy areas of the brain. Depending on where the tumour is located and how fast it grows, different symptoms can occur. Frequent symptoms are paralysis, language problems, fever, nausea, headaches or even muscle twitches.
Brain tumours cause a wide variety of unspecific symptoms. Therefore, eye twitching alone is not necessarily an indication of the presence of a tumour. However, if the eye twitching continues over a longer period of time, it is advisable to consult a doctor who will perform a neurological examination.
Ultimately, spatial claims within the skull can only be reliably detected by imaging techniques, usually a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head. Eye twitches can occur more frequently during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The cause is often a vitamin deficiency.
Pregnant women have an increased risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency because the baby has to be provided for. Signs of deficiency increase the likelihood of muscle twitches all over the body, including the eye muscles. However, stress or anxiety before birth can also cause eye twitches.
In addition, pregnant women often have sleep problems, especially in the last weeks before the birth, and suffer from extreme exhaustion and tiredness during the day. These factors favour the occurrence of twitching of the eye muscles. If a foreign body sensation occurs in the eye, the twitching can also be caused by an injury to the cornea.
This can be caused by any excessive strain on the eye. Typically, the cornea shows small abrasions after contact with branches or small twigs. This is called an erosion cornea.
Since the cornea regenerates within a few days, this is not very serious. Until then, however, it can lead to redness, pain, and an increased blinking or twitching of the eye. Other causes of corneal injury can be welding work without protective goggles (so-called “blinding”), or contact with acids or alkalis, which are sometimes contained in cleaning agents.
However, the latter are an absolute emergency and should be treated immediately by rinsing and presentation to an ophthalmologist. There is a risk of loss of eyesight. In the healing or in some places even in the acute phase, eye twitching can occur because the eye is constantly exposed to painful stimuli. If the cornea is injured, in extreme cases, a cortisone ointment or Bepanthen ointment can help in addition to simply waiting. These are applied to the eye and accelerate the healing process.