'Twitching eye could be sign of cortisol health issue' says optician

Photo of a man sitting in a hotel room bed bed, rubbing his tired eyes as he watches late night television with the remote control in his lap.
A twitching eye can be an alert -Credit:Getty Images

Many Brits’ will have experienced common vision issues such as itching eyes, dark circles and eye twitching (myokymia), as we head into spring, but there is a more, perhaps common factor that people need to be aware of – their cortisol levels. As searches on Google for cortisol were at an all-time high last week in the UK, the search term “how to reduce cortisol” ranked fourth in “how to” searches in the UK over the last 90 days, indicating that people are becoming more wary of the steroid hormone, released by our bodies when stressed.

It helps to regulate several internal processes such as your blood pressure and metabolism, however high levels can cause complications and develop into further health issues. And with a recent study by Capital Hair and Beauty finding that nearly a quarter (23%) of Brits reported high stress levels this year, it isn’t surprising that cortisol levels are becoming a concern.

With this in mind, Roshni Patel, optometrist and head of professional services at Lenstore, has listed what you need to look out for when your eyes are twitching, dry, itchy or sore.

Tackle stress factors head-on

A key factor to consider is how you are currently dealing with stress. Are you overworking yourself, at risk of burnout out or simply just not getting enough rest from the struggles of a busy day-to-day life?

As stress is the main contributor to increased cortisol levels it’s important to consider if you are well rested enough to carry out the things in life that matter to you. Properly managing your day-to-day responsibilities, taking time for yourself and addressing any serious pressure points can help limit the chances of twitching eyes.

Prioritise a better night's sleep

Simple lifestyle changes such as going to bed an hour earlier than your current schedule will seriously improve the chances of a better night’s sleep and lower your cortisol levels. Adults should be getting around seven to nine hours of sleep per night in order to feel properly refreshed the next day and if you are constantly tired, then it’s likely you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep. By reducing your chance of fatigue, you are minimising the chance of developing further issues with eye twitching.

Limit your caffeine intake

Although you might not want to hear it, that extra cup of coffee in the morning might be doing you more harm than good. Energy drinks and coffee are two of the most common stimulants – a likely reason your eyelids are contracting involuntarily throughout the day as caffeine can build up muscle tension, causing them to spasm.

Not only throughout the day, but too much caffeine could also be the reason why you are staying up past your bedtime, resulting in tiredness the following day or even longer term. Less caffeine in the body gives you a much greater chance of getting a better night's sleep, keeping your cortisol levels low.

Avoid straining your eyes

We’re all guilty of spending too much time on our phones in the evening, staring at television screens aimlessly and gazing tirelessly at our computer screens at work. In fact, up to 75% of our time awake is spent staring at some form of digital screen.

Taking regular breaks from screen time can lower the chances of eye strain and reduce the likelihood of developing further eye complications. In addition to taking regular breaks away from the screen, it is important to remember the ‘20-20-20' rule – for every 20 minutes you spend staring at a screen [an arm’s length away], spend 20 seconds focusing on an object 20 feet away.

Reduce alcohol consumption

If you are often experiencing involuntary twitching of your eyes after drinking beer, wine or spirits, then it is likely there is a direct link with your alcohol intake. This is because alcohol relaxes the facial muscles, causing reflexive spasms of the eyelids.

You should refrain from drinking too much alcohol altogether as excessive drinking can cause serious health complications, but if you are planning on having a drink you should consider not drinking around or near bedtime. Not only do increased alcohol levels ruin your chances of getting a better night's sleep, but it can lead to higher cortisol levels and can ultimately develop into fatigue.

Address any potential allergies

Another common cause of twitching eyes is existing allergies, and many people can often be unaware they even have them. This could also tie in closely with runny or itching eyes, which are both common allergen symptoms. Taking an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine can often relieve these symptoms if they are persistent or reoccurring issues, however you should always consult a health professional first before taking any kind of prescribed medication.