On the blink

Dear Lucy: What causes eye tics, and is there anything I can do to avoid them? I’ve heard it could be the result of a magnesium deficiency or too much calcium. —Ticked Off
Illustration of a human eye

Dear T’ed Off: According to MIT Medical optometrist and Eye Service Chief Robert Gross, a simple eyelid twitch may occur in healthy people of any age and does not normally indicate any underlying disease or nutritional imbalance. The condition involves fine twitching of the upper and/or lower eyelid(s) of one eye—more specifically, the orbicularis muscle, which is responsible for closing the eye. Episodes are generally brief, lasting seconds to minutes, and may come and go for several days or longer.
Though usually benign, an eyelid twitch may be sending an important message nonetheless—and not only to other people in the room who think you are winking at them. Gross notes that this condition is often associated with fatigue, anxiety, nicotine use, or excessive caffeine intake. So, if you often experience eyelid twitching, you might try cutting back on your consumption of coffee, tea, or caffeinated soft drinks. You should also take sufficient “eye-rest breaks” from the intensity of close work. For example, while working on the computer, pause every 15 minutes to spend 20 seconds looking around the room. Learning relaxation techniques to cope with stress may also be helpful.
Lucy hopes that these suggestions help you keep the twitching at bay, but if continues to be a problem despite such measures, give our Eye Service a call and schedule an eye exam. —Lucy

Back to Ask Lucy Information contained in Ask Lucy is intended solely for general educational purposes and is not intended as professional medical advice related to individual situations. Always obtain the advice of a qualified healthcare professional if you need medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Never disregard medical advice you have received, nor delay getting such advice, because of something you read in this column.