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Q) I occasionally find that my eye twitches uncontrollably. Is this something I should be concerned about?
A) Eyelid twitches, spasms and tics are relatively common occurrences for most of us and should not cause undue concern.
The symptoms of this involuntary muscle contraction vary greatly amongst individuals between different episodes. It may affect either the upper or lower lid and can be limited to a single eye or it may impact both eyes at the same time (a condition known as essential blepharospasm).
While it tends to come and go spontaneously, it has been known to last weeks or even a few months. This, obviously, can be quite annoying. As well, the rate at which the eye twitches can vary greatly. It may occur every few seconds or there could well be a minute or two that passes between occurrences.
Almost all cases that appear suddenly are not due to any serious underlying medical condition. The key to making them disappear is to understand why they appeared in the first place.
One of the more common triggers is, as it is in many conditions, stress. Chronic stress causes changes in the levels of the various neurotransmitters and hormones that course through our body and eye twitching is one of the many negative health ramifications of this.
Fatigue is also a very common culprit when it comes to eyelid twitching as the resulting eye irritation caused by sleeplessness can be a trigger.
Eye strain that can arise from long hours spent looking at screens or failing to use the proper strength of glasses can also trigger this condition.
If it tends to reoccur frequently, booking an appointment with your local optometrist to get your eyes checked might well prove beneficial.
Dry eyes can also be a cause and can be easily remedied through a number of lifestyle adjustments such as the intake of more fluids, the use of humidifiers, increasing the amount of Omega-3ís in your diet either through food or supplement, a review of the medications you take (which may have dry eyes as a possible side effect) and the regular use of moisturizing drops and/ or ointments.
Many experts also believe that too much caffeine, tobacco or alcohol can also trigger these spasms. Try reducing these (even if you donít believe you drink either to excess) to see if it may make a difference.
Certain prescription drugs, such as the drugs used to treat seizures and a number of psychological conditions, may also cause these tics as a side effect. A thorough review of your medication history with your pharmacist should help point out any possible culprits and what may be done about them.
Some experts also believe that histamine can cause eyelid twitching. As such, allergies which cause the production of histamines may well be at fault. Usually if this is the root cause, there will be other symptoms as well such as itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose or a tickly throat. Possible treatments include allergy pills or eye drops, although their use may prove challenging as these treatments may also dry out our eyes thereby possibly worsening the condition.
Sometimes this condition can also be caused by minor eye conditions such as pink eye or blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids). Very, very rarely, it may be a sign of a brain or nerve disorder such as Bellís palsy, dystonia, Parkinsonís syndrome or Touretteís. If any of these more serious conditions is playing a role, eye twitching will be far from the only symptom that you would be experiencing.
As I mentioned earlier, most cases will generally resolve in time without the need for medical attention. However a health practitioner should be consulted if the twitching completely closes the eyelid, if it continues beyond a week or two, your eye is red, swollen or has discharge, the upper eyelid droops or the spasms affect other facial muscles.
If left unchecked, this condition can lead to an increased sensitivity to light, blurry vision and facial spasms. In severe cases, the spasms can be so extreme that the eyelids can stay shut for several hours.
For those for whom lifestyle adjustments do not work, there are several treatments available.
In mild cases prescription drugs such as clonazepam or lorazepam may provide some short-term relief although these medications tend to work in only 15% of cases and may cause some troubling side effects (such as drowsiness).
The most commonly recommended treatment is botox injections into the eye muscles which can relieve the spasms for several months at a time.
For those with persistent symptoms, repeat injections are often necessary. Alternative therapies such as hypnotism, acupuncture, biofeedback and chiropractic care may also be of benefit. If all else fails, a surgical procedure may have to occur. A myectomy in which some of the nerves and muscles of the eyelids are removed can improve the lives of anywhere from 75-85% of the patients who undergo it.
For more information about this or any other health related concerns, contact the pharmacists at Gordon Pharmasave, Your Health and Wellness Destination in Kincardine and Port Elgin.
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Sunday, January 17, 2016