Eye twitches have become more common in lockdown, says eye surgeon – here's how to stop the spasms

Eye twitches are extremely common. (Getty Images)
Eye twitches are extremely common. (Getty Images)

Picture the scene: you're settling down to watch another episode of Married At First Sight Australia when all of a sudden your eye starts to twitch uncontrollably.

You blink and give your eye a good rub hoping that will sort it, but fast forward an hour and the unstoppable twitch is still there. The irritating spasm then makes another appearance the next day, and the next.

So what's going on? What's causing your eye to take on a life of its own?

According to Ceri Smith-Jaynes, optometrist and spokesperson for the Association of Optometrists (AOP), many people go through a phase of one eyelid twitching.

"This is usually down to stress, tiredness or too much caffeine," she adds. "The main treatment in that case is to work out which of those is causing it and do your best to manage that cause.

"However, there are some rare problems where eyelids twitch and move uncontrollably; if it persists for more than a few weeks and other people can really notice it, consult your optometrist.”

Read more: This '20-20-20' rule could help protect your eyesight during lockdown

Considering, stress levels for many of us have been at an all time high during the coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense that more of us could be suffering from eye twitches right now.

“Eye twitches are surprisingly common and have become more so during lockdown," explains Dr Susan Sarangapani, eye surgeon at Ophthalmic Consultants of London.

“The twitching sensation is caused by the involuntary spasming of the small muscles around the eye. In the most serious cases, it can be so bad that the patient can’t even open their eye.

"Most people will suffer from it to some degree at some point, but for the majority of us it will be a short-lived annoyance."

Watch: Lockdown restrictions could be causing poor eyesight for millions.

Before we dive deeper into the triggers of your twitching eye, it's important to know exactly what an eye twitch actually is.

"Eye and eyelid twitches, or blepharospasm as it is known, are caused by involuntary spasms of the tiny muscles around the eye and the eyelid," explains Dr Tom Micklewright, associate medical director at Push Doctor.

"Very rarely are they anything to worry about."

The most common causes are stress, tiredness, caffeine or alcohol, but according to Dr Micklewright eye infections, dry eyes and scratches to the surface of the eye can also sometimes cause these spasms.

Read more: One in five children with coronavirus develop eye symptoms, small study suggests

While in serious cases it can be a sign of an underlying thyroid problem or neurological condition, more often than not a twitch is merely a warning sign that we’re overtired or have drunk too much caffeine. Sounds familiar right?

“But there’s often a psychological element to it as well and stress can be a trigger factor," Dr Sarangapani continues.

"In pre-pandemic times doctors noticed that people who’d been involved in a road accident or suffered a bereavement were more likely to suffer from eye twitches.

“It’s thought this is the reason lockdown life could be making it more common. The stress of living in quarantine, coupled with our fears about COVID, not to mention staring at our screens all day, are all taking their toll on our eyes."

Could more of us be suffering from a twitchy eye due to coronavirus pandemic? (Getty Images)
Could more of us be suffering from a twitchy eye due to coronavirus pandemic? (Getty Images)

Read more: Rochelle Humes admits parenting guilt over not spotting daughter's sight problem

So what can you to to stop your eye involuntary spasm-ing and spoiling your Netflix enjoyment?

While it may sound easier said than done, Dr Micklewright advises trying to ensure you are getting plenty of rest.

"Review your sleep routine and ask yourself whether you're getting enough sleep (a minimum of 7-8 hours is recommended) and whether it is of a good quality," he says.

"Try cutting out caffeinated drinks, such as tea or coffee, and look to reduce your alcohol intake," he adds.

"And finally, consider ways in which you can better manage the stress in your life. That might include exercise, reading, meditation or getting out into nature.

Most eye twitches will last for a few days and then disappear, but they can reoccur weeks later if your body becomes stressed again.

"If after trying the above for two weeks, your eye is still twitching, you should see your doctor."

Watch: Dame Judi Dench vows to keep acting despite deteriorating eyesight.