Could eye twitching be a sign of something serious?

Most ofen it’s a medical phenomenon known as benign essential blepharospasm, in which the eyelid muscles twitch involuntarily for an unpredictable length of time. It’s usually harmless—but annoying!

I don’t like to be too dismissive of blepharospasm, however, because it’s ofen a result of fatigue and stress (if not caused by a direct irritant).

Chronic fatigue and stress can take a serious toll on your health in ways that go beyond an eye twitch, including high blood pressure. Scientists aren’t sure why, but high stress levels can cause a part of your brain in charge of muscle control (the basal ganglia) to function abnormally. This can cause the nerves around your eyelid to essentially misfire.

So if you’re feeling rundown, think of that twitch as a reminder to take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, and don’t overdose on caffeine or alcohol—factors that put extra stress on your body and may worsen the twitch. Consider making time for some mindbody wellness, whether that’s yoga, meditation, or a massage.

If you get your stress level in check, odds are good that the blepharospasm will stop. If it persists or is accompanied by concerning symptoms, see your doctor to verify the diagnosis and discuss possible treatments.

Travis Stork, MD, is an ER physician, cohost of TV’s The Doctors, and the author of The Lean Belly Prescription.
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