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What You Need To Know About Eye Tics

What are eye tics?

These are described as repetitive and bothersome movements of the eye(s) or eye lid(s).   Eye tics, twitching, blinking or spasms are relatively common. Some people have eye-rolling movements they can’t control.  When the eyelid is the problem, usually only the bottom lid of one eye is involved, but the top eyelid of that same eye can also twitch.  While most eye tics come and go, some may last weeks, months or longer.  Regardless of the variation, some people find it incredibly irritating to the point that the muscles that do this can actually get tired and begin to hurt.

What are causes of eye tics?

Most cases of eye tics are relatively benign and can result from stress, tiredness, eye strain, caffeine, alcohol, dry eyes, nutritional imbalances (like magnesium deficiencies) and allergies. Some forms of eyelid twitching are rare and caused by neurological conditions such as blepharospasm or hemifacial spasm. Blepharospasm is characterized by the regular and forceful closing of the muscles around one or both eyes (not just the eyelids).  Hemifacial spasm is a contraction of the entire side of one’s face – eyes and mouth included.  These two should be diagnosed and treated by a neurologist or ophthalmologist.  Other times (and more pertinent to this web site) eye tics may be related to a Tic Disorder, such as Tourette’s Syndrome.  These are more likely when someone has involuntary eye rolling, for instance, and they can be accompanied by other facial or body tics.Can stress cause eye tics?

Yes, some individuals can get eye tics when they are stressed, tired and even excited.  In fact, for those that have recurrent eye tics any extremes of emotion can amplify the eye tics and increase their occurrence.

Are eye tics a problem?

This is not necessarily a problem and with most people it may be more of a habit that is barely noticeable to any one else.  However, since in some cases it is bothersome, painful and very noticeable to others an evaluation by a medical doctor is important.

What to do about eye tics?

If it is not noticeable or much of a bother, ignore it, live with it and do nothing.  If you look around everyone has one twitch, habit or otherwise that is characteristic to them.  Comedians, for instance, pick up on this when they are going to imitate people.  However, if it is a bother, get help and treatment.  Reducing your stress can help make eye twitching stop.  Catching up on your sleep can help too. Your eyes may be working too hard, triggering eyelid twitching, since overuse of computers, tablets and smartphones can lead to eye strain and/or dry eyes. Reduce eye strain by having your eyes checked for glasses or a change of glasses.  Have dry eyes checked and treated.  If your caffeine (coffee, tea, soda, etc.) and/or alcohol intake has increased, cutting back is worth a try.

Who can help with eye tics?

After seeing your eye doctor, one of the best doctors to consult for eye tics is a child psychiatrist that also treats adults.  All child psychiatrists are trained to see not only children, but adults as well.  In fact, while not logical, they are trained as adult psychiatrists first, THEN they sub-specialize in children.  They are very knowledgeable about the identification, diagnosis and treatment of tic disorders, which often begin in childhood.  Other medical doctors may not recognize people with eye tics and may not be aware that it could be a tic disorder.   Sure they can tell you about whether it is a magnesium deficiency, allergy or other medical problem, but the Psychiatrist (having also received medical school training) will also be able to identify these as the causes by running medical tests.

How to treat eye tics?

As with anything else it is important to treat the cause of the eye tic.  Get enough sleep, cut caffeine intake, see your eye doctor and do what you can to reduce stress.  Consider relaxation therapy and if needed, in very bad cases, medications can be used to significantly reduce the eye tic.

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