Why Does My Eye Twitch?

– Hi I’m Dr. Joel Hunter,
I’m an ophthalmologist, and today we’re gonna talk about one of the most annoying
eye phenomena there are. Namely, why does my
eyelid twitch sometimes? (upbeat music) So, maybe you’re in that small percentage of the population who’s never had an issue where your eyelid is doing
that twitching thing. If so, I’m very impressed with your thirst for knowledge that you clicked on this video. The rest of us though, the vast majority of the population has had this eyelid twitching, these little fasciculations that happen. And it’s actually got a real name. (upbeat music) And that real name is eyelid myokymia. Now, beyond just being really interesting at the next party you’re
at, and being like, “Hey have you heard of eyelid myokymia?” The reason it’s important to talk about what it’s actually called, is
that anything that has a name it means it’s a real thing,
enough people have had it that some scientists
got together and said, “We should give this thing a name.” And so, in this case those eyelid twitches that you get that drive you crazy, it’s called eyelid myokymia. Now, why does that happen? Well, your eyelid is actually just made up of muscles underneath the skin. (upbeat music) Now, the muscle specifically
that makes up your eyelid it looks really cool if you’ve ever seen an Anatomy poster of a face
with the facial muscles, then you’ve seen this
one specific drawing. (upbeat music) There are rings of muscle
that encircle around your eye they go all the way from
right where your eyelashes are all the way out to
above where your brow is and below where the lower
orbital rim is down here where your eye socket starts, and it’s got a name. (upbeat music) It’s called your orbicularis
oculi, the eye part is easy because that’s oculi, but it goes around the ring
that encircles your eye. And so that muscle contracts and that’s what causes
your eyelid to close. When it contracts a lot
over many, many years over here it causes wrinkles to form on the outside of your eyes
that causes crow’s feet. But when just a couple of them, just the thinnest ones are contracting you get this little eyelid
twitch, you get eyelid myokymia. But why does that happen? (upbeat music) So, with most stuff in medicine, it helps to explain
something that happens big on a macro level. Stuff that you can see
in the mirror or feel. If you get down to the micro level. And that eye muscle that
we were just talking about that makes up your eyelid
your orbicularis oculi, it’s made up of individual muscle cells. (upbeat music) Every time you have an
individual specialized cell it gets a special name and
those cells and muscles are called sarcomeres. And the way that they work
is they keep a balance of two specific electrolytes on either side of their cell walls. (upbeat music) And those two most notably
are sodium and potassium. Now, those are electrolytes and electrolytes are just chemicals that are dissolved into our blood in order to make the machinery run the way that its supposed to. They are by no means the
only ones that matter, there’s a lot of electrolytes that have to be perfectly
in balance in our blood, these are only two of the main seven that you check even when you get the most basic blood chemical panel. But these two happen to matter the most when we’re talking
about cells contraction. Because there’s this sodium potassium pump and it lines the wall
of these muscle cells, and its job is to try to keep
all the sodium on one side and all of the potassium on the other and not let anything through
until that cell is activated. And then the gates open up and the sodium rushes through one way, the potassium rushes out the other way. And when that happens
your muscle contracts. That fiber which was very, very long squeezes and becomes shorter. And you can imagine
with that ring of muscle why that would blink your eye because those fibers are becoming shorter. But what happens when they
fire and we don’t want them to? That’s that fasciculation, that’s that twitch, that’s myokymia. Well, when you don’t want them
to fire and they do anyway it’s because there’s
an imbalance somewhere. The reason it happens so
specifically with your eye rather than your thigh, is because your thigh muscle’s huge. Even if it’s not that big like mine it’s still much, much bigger than the very, very thin sheet of
muscle that surrounds your eye. That eyelid tissue has the thinnest muscle anywhere in your body. And so anywhere that you would have a metabolite or electrolyte imbalance you can imagine it would affect the most sensitive thinnest tissue first. The three main causes of
having eyelid myokamia. By no mistake and no accident are. (upbeat music) They are stress, fatigue and dehydration. All of these things wreak
havoc on your metabolism and therefore wreak havoc
on your electrolyte levels. And so the way to fix eyelid myokymia is to lay in a hammock, and take a nap and eat bananas and Gatorade. And I’m only being kind of sarcastic because if people actually got their electrolyte balances correct, it would fix the vast majority of cases. Now, there are some where it still lasts and that’s because there’s
some sort of nerve damage, but there’s about one of those
for every million of people that just have regular irritating, annoying, eyelid myokymia. And so it comes down to what you’ve probably already suspected. You need a little more sleep, you’re a little bit too stressed out and you might need to drink
a little bit more water and that should help. Bonus, bonus real. You know what? For the people that do
have ongoing permanent one-sided eyelid spasm, that’s got a very specific name. It’s called hemifacial spasm. And in those cases,
interestingly there’s something that’s just irritating
your cranial VII nerve that feeds all of the muscle tissue and causes it to contract. And so, they’ll just have this constant contraction of that tissue. And usually you fix it with
Botox, interestingly enough. That’s all we have today, thank you for listening.

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