Eyelid spasms are twitches of the upper or lower eyelid that the person having them can feel and that sometimes are significant enough for others to be able to see as they happen. These spasms occur when the muscles of the eyelid involuntarily contract. There are a number of causes of eyelid spasms, including stress, fatigue, caffeine consumption and prolonged eye strain. Spasms can last for as little as a few seconds and for as much as several months, but they usually are not cause for concern.
There are three classifications of eye spasms. The most common is the eye twitch, which usually is the result of stress or fatigue. This type of eyelid spasm usually is harmless. The best treatment is rest and relaxation, although rinsing the eye with warm water sometimes helps. It also can be beneficial to reduce the consumption of caffeine or sugar if the eye twitching persists for a long time.
Another, more serious type of spasm is called an essential blepharospasm. This is an involuntary condition that affects both eyes at the same time. As a result of an essential blepharospasm, the eyes tend to close involuntarily. The muscle spasms also can affect the eyebrows and even the mouth and neck muscles. The cause of this more severe eye spasm is an abnormal nerve pulse.
Essential blepharospasms, when they occur, are more intense than a simple eye twitch, so they can be quite problematic because they can severely impair vision. For this reason, it is important to treat essential blepharospasms if they occur. Treatment might consist of biofeedback or medication. In more extreme cases, surgery or botulinum injections might be necessary. Botulinum injections, often called Botox® injections, paralyze the muscles and thus can alleviate the eyelid spasms.
A third type of eyelid spasm is a hemifacial spasm. These, like the essential blepharospams, are more severe than the eye twitch. They affect only one eye, but they also involve a twitching of the mouth on one side of the face. Hemifacial spasms usually occur because an artery is pressing against the nerve that controls the facial muscles.
Treatment of hemifacial spasms can be similar to the treatment techniques for essential blepharospasms. Botulinum can provide relief for the spasms, but it is more common for hemifacial spasms to require surgery. In this neurosurgical procedure, the surgeon relieves the pressure that the artery is placing on the nerve.