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Doctor examining an elderly woman's eyes with a pen light

At a glance: Blepharospasm

  • Symptoms:

    Eyelid twitching or blinking that you can’t control

  • Diagnosis:

    Eye exam

  • Treatment:

    Injections, surgery

What is blepharospasm?

Blepharospasm (also called benign essential blepharospasm) is blinking or other eyelid movements, like twitching, that you can’t control.

Eyelid twitching usually goes away on its own. But people with benign essential blepharospasm can develop severe and chronic (long-term) eyelid twitching.

What are the symptoms of blepharospasm?

Blepharospasm usually starts with small eyelid twitches that happen every once in a while. Over time, the twitching may happen more often and cause your eyes to close completely. That can make it hard to do everyday things, like reading or driving.

Some people also have facial twitches (twitches in other parts of the face).

A man rubs his eyes as he sits in front of a laptop.

If my eyelids twitch, do I have blepharospasm?

Not necessarily. Benign essential blepharospasm is rare, and lots of different things can cause eyelid twitching — like stress, dry eye, too much caffeine, and lack of sleep. Most of the time, the twitching goes away on its own.

Sometimes, eyelid twitching can happen as part of other health conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Meige syndrome, and Tourette syndrome. And it’s a side effect of certain medicines.

Go to your eye doctor if:

  • Your eyelids keep twitching for more than a few weeks
  • Your eyes close completely when they twitch
  • Other parts of your face start to twitch, like the muscles on 1 side of your face

What causes blepharospasm?

Blepharospasm happens when the part of the brain that controls your eyelid muscles stops working correctly. Sometimes blepharospasm runs in families, and women ages 40 to 60 are more likely to develop it. But in most cases, doctors aren’t sure what causes it.

How will my eye doctor check for blepharospasm?

Your eye doctor can check for blepharospasm as part of a comprehensive eye exam. They’ll also ask you about your medical history and family medical history.

What’s the treatment for blepharospasm?

There’s no cure for blepharospasm, but there are treatments that can help with your symptoms.

  • Injections. Your eye doctor can inject a medicine called Botox into your eyelid muscles to make them stop twitching. Most people need to get injections every 3 to 4 months. 

  • Surgery. If injections don’t work for you, your doctor may recommend a surgery called myectomy. In a myectomy, a surgeon will remove some of the muscle or nerve tissue from your eyelids to help stop the twitching.

Lifestyle changes like managing your stress, getting enough sleep, and cutting down on food or drinks with caffeine (like coffee, tea, or soda) may also help.  

If another condition is causing your eyelids to twitch, treating that condition may stop the twitching. For example, if you have dry eye, your doctor may recommend eye drops or medicine to help your eyes make more tears. Learn more about dry eye.

What’s the latest research on blepharospasm?

To learn more about blepharospasm or take part in research on this condition, visit our Rare Diseases page.

Last updated: November 15, 2023