Doctor's Orders: The Surprising (and Annoying) Reason You Need More Rest

Dr. Jane Leonard
PHOTO:

Zara

A quick poll of the Byrdie and Who What Wear office revealed that every single team members has, at one point or another, suffered with that annoying eye twitch. You know, you’ll be in a meeting or stuck on a delayed train and it suddenly just starts going, prompting you to ask exasperatedly, “Why does my eye keep twitching?” Sometimes it lasts an hour; other times it can twitch away for days on end.

Twitching of the eye is medically referred to as blepharospasm, which means excessive and uncontrollable contractions of the eye muscle. Symptoms, include excessive blinking and involuntary closure of the eyelids, are caused by spasm of the orbicularis muscle, which surrounds the eye. This basically means your upper eyelid starts to blink, then it goes into spasm and you can’t make it stop.

The normal eye blinks around 10 to 20 times per minute. The increased rate of blinking and muscle spasm tends to develop gradually. It’s usually something that develops in mid- to late adulthood; however, brief episodes of eye twitching can occur at any age. So what is really causing your eye to go into overdrive? And how can you prevent it? Luckily I have the answer. Keep scrolling to find out what it is.

What causes blepharospasm?

In most cases of blepharospasm, the underlying cause is often unknown.

However, it is often linked to:

  • Fatigue and lack of sleep
  • Irritation of eye, in particular the cornea or conjunctiva
  • Stress
  • Caffeine
  • Working on computers/laptops for long periods

The twitching is normally painless and harmless; it's just annoying!

In some cases blepharospasm could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as:

  • Dry eyes
  • Blepharitis (inflamed eyelids)
  • Light sensitivity
  • Neurological conditions (rarely)

What's the treatment?

As most cases of blepharospasm are self-limiting and resolve without treatment, the best course of action is to prevent them occurring in the first place. The only way to do this is to reflect on your lifestyle and tackle potential triggers.

The general preventive measures you can take are:

  • Managing your stress.
  • Optimising your sleep.
  • Incorporating regular breaks away from your desk if you stare at a computer all day.
  • Getting an eye test to ensure you aren’t straining your eyes.
  • Getting Botox injections (yes, really—more below).

Botox is a neuromodulator, which means it blocks the message that is transmitted between a nerve and muscle to make the muscle move. When Botox is injected into the muscle around the eye, it temporarily blocks the contraction of the eye muscles, which prevents them going into spasm, relieving the symptoms of excessive muscle twitching.

Botox is a highly effective treatment, giving relief to 90% of patients. However, the injections should only be carried out by a qualified and experienced injector to ensure the dose and delivery of the injection are precise.

See your doctor when…

Most cases of blepharospasm resolve fully on their own. However if any of the symptoms below develop, you should see your doctor for an assessment to help treat your symptoms and investigate the underlying cause.

Contact you doctor if: 

  • Eye twitching is prolonged (i.e., it lasts longer than one week).
  • Your vision changes.
  • The eyelid completely closes.
  • Twitching spreads to other areas of the face.
  • The upper eyelid droops.
  • The eye becomes swollen, red or discharge develops.

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