You may notice your eye or eyelid twitching and wonder why it’s doing that. This involuntary movement may be completely harmless or the symptom of a more serious condition.

You might experience eye or eyelid twitching if you’re:

  • tired
  • stressed
  • overcaffeinated

Sometimes, however, the twitching is the first symptom of another condition. Call a doctor if your eye or eyelid twitching occurs for longer than a few days or is one of several symptoms.

Let’s look at some of the more serious underlying conditions that might prompt an appointment with a doctor.

Sometimes eye or eyelid twitching can be a symptom of a more serious condition. Many of the conditions that cause twitching or spasming may affect your neurological system or muscles.

Here are some underlying conditions that may cause twitching in your eyes or eyelids.

Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy affects your facial muscles (including in your eyelids) after a viral illness like a cold or the flu. The symptoms can appear suddenly and may include paralysis on one side of your face.

With Bell’s palsy, your eyes may also become inflamed. This condition usually resolves on its own, but it’s important to call a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.

Cervical dystonia

Cervical dystonia affects your neck and head muscles. This is a chronic neurological condition when your neck muscles contract into unusual positions regularly or more sporadically.

Cervical dystonia can be painful and also cause symptoms like:

  • head tremors
  • a raised shoulder
  • headaches

There is currently no cure for cervical dystonia. But a doctor may recommend treating it with:

  • medications
  • surgery
  • physical therapy

Dystonia

Dystonia causes your muscles to spasm, and can affect your eyes. It can affect one muscle or many and be mild or severe. You may find that this condition worsens when you feel stressed or tired.

Dystonia may start in just one muscle and then move to others and get worse with time. Dystonia may occur along with a neurological condition.

There is no cure yet for dystonia. But a doctor may recommend the following treatments:

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

MS is a chronic condition when your immune system attacks your nerves. It affects the way your brain communicates with your body. MS can cause symptoms that come and go or get worse with time. These include:

  • muscle twitching and tremors
  • muscle weakness
  • fatigue
  • numbness
  • cognitive changes
  • eye pain
  • double and blurred vision

Right now, there is no cure available for MS, but a treatment plan includes:

  • healthy lifestyle habits
  • taking medications
  • other therapies

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a brain condition that gets progressively worse over time and eventually interferes with your daily activities. It begins with minor symptoms like changes to your handwriting or voice. You may then:

  • develop tremors
  • have muscle stiffness
  • experience slowing movements
  • have difficulty balancing

Changes in your facial expressions can be a symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Late stages of Parkinson’s disease may result in an inability to walk without assistance. Treating Parkinson’s involves:

  • medication
  • therapies
  • potential surgery
  • healthy lifestyle habits

Tourette syndrome

An inability to control muscle movements may be a symptom of Tourette syndrome. This neurological condition causes repeated, involuntary physical movements or tics and uncontrolled vocal expressions.

One tic associated with Tourette syndrome is blinking, but other tics may include:

  • clearing your throat
  • moving your head
  • sniffing
  • making other facial expressions

The tics can become worse if you feel stressed or anxious. There is no known cause of Tourette syndrome, and there’s currently no cure. However, a doctor may recommend:

  • behavioral therapy
  • medications
  • other treatments

Hemifacial spasm

Hemifacial spasms are muscle twitches on your face. These occur because of a change to your seventh cranial nerve. These spasms may begin in one place, like your eyelids, but they may get worse and affect other facial features with time. This can feel irritating or distracting.

Hemifacial spasms can also affect your hearing or cause pain in your ear. To minimize twitches, a doctor may recommend:

  • medications
  • therapy
  • home-based treatments

Benign essential blepharospasm

Benign essential blepharospasm specifically affects your eyes and can get worse over time. Early symptoms may include light sensitivity and difficulty keeping your eyes open.

The progression of this condition may include the inability to keep your eyelids open, affecting your vision. A doctor may recommend medications to treat the condition. You may need surgery to treat severe cases.

Myasthenia gravis

This neuromuscular condition may be caused by an autoimmune condition. It results in your muscles getting weaker and having less control over them. Some symptoms include:

  • your eyes twitching
  • a drooping eyelid
  • seeing double

You may also experience:

  • difficulty controlling your muscles
  • challenges talking
  • fatigue
  • breathing difficulties

Symptoms can come and go, and change in their severity. Treatments include:

  • medications
  • plasma exchange
  • lifestyle changes

Eye and eyelid twitching are not always symptoms of a severe condition. They may be related to your:

  • emotions
  • level of rest
  • environment

Harmless eye twitching that goes away after a brief period is called myokymia. It can affect both the top and bottom eyelids for a few hours at a time. You may experience the twitching for several days in a row.

Triggers for this condition can include:

Often managing these triggers can help reduce or eliminate the twitching.

Eyelid or eye twitching that lasts more than a few days or that occurs with other symptoms are indications to speak with a doctor. You should also call a doctor if you cannot control your eyelid or close it all the way.

Neglecting to diagnose a lasting eye twitch could result in structural damage to your eye or the worsening of symptoms associated with another more serious condition. A doctor can help you by:

  • conducting an exam
  • asking you about your symptoms
  • possibly ordering more tests

Some tests may include a CT scan or an MRI. The doctor may refer you to a specialist like an eye doctor or neurologist.

You should reach out to your child’s doctor for the same reasons you would call a doctor for eye or eyelid twitching yourself. These include:

  • prolonged twitching
  • other symptoms
  • irritation near or around the eyes

Often, external factors trigger eye or eyelid twitching and the symptom resolves without incident. But twitching may be the symptom of another health condition.

Schedule an appointment with a doctor for an exam if the twitching continues after a few days or is one of several concerning physical symptoms. Treating a more serious health condition at its onset may prevent it from getting worse.