Uncontrollable twitching of the muscles round the eyes is called blepharospasm or myokymia. Only the eyelid may be affected, or the sufferer may keep blinking and closing the eyes repeatedly, or there may be spasms of not being able to open the eyes for a few moments or for longer periods. Sometimes the muscles of the lower face and the jaw are involved as well, so that trying to open the eyes causes these muscles to contract into a grimace. The twitching may be worse when the individual is tired or under stress, and it is often aggravated by bright or flickering light (such as that from a TV) or irritants such as smoke or wind.
Blepharospasm is not a dangerous condition, because it does not spread to other muscles of the body, but it can be embarrassing not to have control over one’s facial expression. Causes can be light sensitivity, dry eyes, a fault in the part of the brain that controls movements (the basal ganglia), drugs, neurological, or even unknown.
Although stress makes it worse, relaxation techniques do not seem to help. In fact, there is no cure, but it can be improved by tiny injections of botulinum toxin into the affected muscles. For this treatment, your GP would have to refer you to a neurology department specializing in movement disorders. The treatment has to be repeated several times a year.
First published on: embarrassingproblems.com
Reviewed and edited by: Dr Anna Cantlay
Last updated: October 2020