Well Health

When Your Eyelid Has a Will of Its Own: Facial Twitches

February 11, 2019
Blonde woman covering one eye with hands
© Bonninstudio / Stocksy United

A job interview or first date is a really inconvenient time for your left eyelid to flutter without your permission. Yet there it goes. Again.

For some, it’s an eyelid. For others, it’s a lip that curls or a nose that wrinkles. If some part of your face is making a sudden jerking movement that annoys you, you’re not alone. 

These are the things that facial twitches are made of 

“The most common muscles that we see twitches in are little tiny muscles involved in closing the eyelid,” says Ali Samii, M.D., a neurologist and co-director of UW Movement Disorder Fellowship.

Fatigue, sleep deprivation, stress, eye strain, too much coffee or alcohol and also certain stimulants (like those in some decongestants) can all contribute to eyelid twitches and other facial twitches, too.

“But they can also occur randomly — for no good reason at all,” says Samii. 

Sigh.

What you can do about the twitchy face problem

Your best bet at resolving a facial twitch is a good dose of … patience. But while you’re waiting for your twitch to go away, there are a few practices that might help hasten its departure. 

Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake. Easier said than done, we know. But because caffeine and alcohol may stimulate this kind of twitching, decreasing your consumption can only help.

Eliminate stimulants. Some decongestants, diet aids and prescription medications such as those for ADHD are stimulants. If you take a prescription drug, speak with your doctor about whether it could be contributing to the problem.

Lessen eye irritation. If it’s your eye that’s twitchy, keep your eyes comfortable by cutting down on screen time, wearing sunglasses, avoiding bright lights and using eye drops (if your eyes are dry).

Be more chill. Stress makes everything worse, including facial twitches. And try to not fixate on your twitch because that’s stressful.

Get enough sleep. Overtiredness can contribute to muscle spasms, so be sure to get enough zzzs.  

Eat foods with magnesium. Magnesium plays a role in regulating proper muscle function. Eat foods high in magnesium such as dark green vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish, whole grains and pumpkin seeds. If you want to take a magnesium supplement, consult with a doctor or nutritionist to make sure you don’t overdo it. 

If your twitch won't stop twitching

There are several scenarios in which you should consult a doctor: if your twitching doesn’t resolve after several weeks, if it intensifies or interferes with your vision, or if you simultaneously experience other significant symptoms, such as a headache or muscle weakness.

If your twitching intensifies over time, it’s possible you may be experiencing a spasm caused by a small blood vessel touching a facial nerve (known as a hemifacial spasm).

Hemifacial spasms don’t come and go but persist for weeks in the same location and can worsen over time.

While a facial spasm can be a sign of something more serious, it’s probably not.

“In adults, a facial spasm rarely indicates an underlying medical condition,” says Samii. “Instead, a twitch usually resolves on its own and people forget they ever had one.”