A twitching eyelid is popularly known as a nervous eye. This describes possible triggers, such as stress or emotional strain. One speaks of a nervous eye when the eye muscles contract suddenly and without conscious control.
In principle, all muscle groups of the body can be affected. The causes of a twitching eyelid are usually harmless, but those affected still find it extremely stressful. In rare cases, however, serious, mostly neurological diseases can also be behind it.
Possible causes for eyelid twitches
A twitching eyelid results in an activation of the eye muscles that cannot be consciously controlled. Multiple sclerosis does not normally cause a twitching eyelid. In this disease, an autoimmune disease destroys the myelin sheaths of the nerve fibres.
Without a myelin sheath, the nerves can no longer transmit excitation properly. This leads to recurrent neurological deficits such as loss of sensation or paralysis. Since in principle all nerves of the body can be affected, the symptoms are very varied.
Especially in the early stages it is therefore difficult to diagnose the disease and a twitching eyelid would actually be conceivable, even if not typical, in multiple sclerosis. The classic symptoms at diagnosis are visual disturbances, since the optic nerve is usually affected by this inflammation. But also sensory disturbances and paralysis can occur, depending on the area of the central nervous system in which the myelin sheath was destroyed.
A twitching eye is actually not typical for an iron deficiency. Classical symptoms that indicate iron deficiency are tiredness and exhaustion, concentration problems, pale skin, hair loss, brittle nails, cracked corners of the mouth and a weakened immune system. With a simple blood test, however, the doctor can determine whether an iron deficiency still exists.
Therefore, if iron deficiency is suspected, it is recommended to have a blood test performed. Sometimes a twitching eyelid occurs after drinking caffeine. Just like stress or emotional strain, caffeine increases the level of tension in the body.
This often leads to irritation of the nerves. This leads to a short-term disturbance in the central nervous system. The balance between excitatory and inhibitory impulses is affected for a short moment and a nerve activates a muscle without arbitrary control.
This becomes visible in the form of a twitch. In most cases, a twitching eyelid improves rapidly if you sleep sufficiently for a few days and avoid caffeine. Stress is the most common cause of eyelid twitching, along with a lack of minerals.
The most common mechanism that causes eyelid twitching consists of chronic exhaustion and tiredness. This can be triggered by physical stress such as lack of sleep or illness. Psychological stress factors such as pressure to perform, a stimulus satiation or even critical life events can also cause eyelid twitching.
In general, various hormones are released in the body in stressful situations. These are intended to make the affected person more efficient. Stress becomes a problem when it persists over a longer period of time.
The body permanently releases hormones which, for example, strengthen the thyroid gland function. Also the so-called sympathetic nervous system, which was supposed to prepare our ancestors to fight or flee, is activated by the stress hormones. This leads to an increase in muscle tension and the nerve cells transmit signals faster.
This can lead to small disturbances, which for example result in uncontrollable twitching of the eyelids. As a rule, the symptoms disappear when the stress level is reduced. Eyelid twitching can also be triggered by thyroid dysfunction.
Here, hyperthyroidism is much more often the cause than underfunction. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by various factors. For example, the autoimmune disease Graves’ disease can be the reason for the increased thyroid activity.
Inflammatory changes in the thyroid gland, functional disorders or autonomic nodules and tumours can also increase the production of thyroid hormones. Typically, the increased hormone levels lead to an increase in the activity of the so-called sympathetic nervous system. This in turn releases hormones that increase muscle tension. They can lead to an increased excitability of the muscles and thus promote eyelid twitching. In addition, hyperthyroidism can cause sleep disorders, which can also cause eyelid twitching due to additional exhaustion and fatigue.