Twitching of the eyebrow is when the skin around the eyebrow moves or spasms involuntarily. It often occurs when the eyelid twitches, as this can pull the skin around the eyebrow.
Eyebrow spasms are usually painless but can be annoying and uncomfortable. They can last for just a few seconds or can continue for several hours and will usually go away on their own.
In this article, we firstly look at every day causes for eyebrow twitching, then at long-term disorders that can cause this symptom. We also look at how to stop the eyebrow twitching, and when to see a doctor.
Many people experience eyebrow twitches, caused by everyday factors or underlying disorders.
Many people will experience eyebrow twitches sometime in their lives. There are many common, everyday causes of eyebrow twitching. These include:
Too much caffeine
Ingesting too much caffeine can cause muscle twitches, including around the eyes.
If a person suspects that caffeine may be causing their eyebrow twitches, the twitches may stop if they reduce their intake.
Magnesium deficiency, which is also called hypomagnesemia, can have other symptoms that include:
- loss of appetite
- personality changes
Good sources of magnesium that are recommended by the National Institute of Health include:
- almonds, cashew nuts, and peanuts
- black beans and kidney beans
- soya milk
People can experience eyebrow twitching as a result of particular medications.
Stimulants, such as medication to treat ADHD, and antipsychotics may cause tics and tremors. Antiepileptic medication can also prompt twitches, though the frequency of this is unknown.
Diuretics are another drug type that may lead to muscle twitching, as they can result in a magnesium deficiency.
If a person suspects that their medication is causing spasms, they should talk to their doctor and consider switching to a different type or lowering the dosage.
If a person strains their eyes, this can result in the eye muscles being overworked and becoming tired.
Spending a lot of time looking at a screen can cause eyestrain, and people should try to take regular breaks to avoid this happening.
Eyestrain can also occur when someone is straining to see, in which case they may need glasses or a change in the prescription for their glasses.
When someone has allergies, these can result in twitching around their eyes. When an allergic reaction is triggered, histamine is released, which causes itchiness. When a person rubs their irritated eyes, this may cause them to twitch.
When a person feels fatigued, their eyes are more likely to twitch. Getting plenty of sleep, which is usually considered to be between 7 and 9 hours a night, may help reduce instances of eye twitching.
If a person believes they are getting enough rest yet still feel extremely tired, they can consult a doctor to find out if there is an underlying condition causing these symptoms.
Stress is another common reason why a person's eyelid or eyebrow might twitch. Stress can affect the body in many ways, so paying attention to stress levels and trying to reduce stress can bring many health benefits.
Relaxation techniques and exercise are known to help alleviate stress and could help to reduce instances of the eyelids or eyebrows twitching.
Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco
Drinking alcohol, smoking, and taking recreational drugs may also cause a person's eyes and the areas around them to twitch. Reducing the amount of alcohol consumed, stopping smoking, and avoiding recreational drugs can help to alleviate the spasms.
Disorders that cause eyebrow twitching
In some cases, eyebrow twitching may be caused by a condition that will require medical attention.
Less commonly, eyebrow twitching may have a more serious underlying cause. These include:
Hemifacial spasms are different to other eyebrow or eyelid twitching and occur because of irritated facial nerves.
These spasms continue throughout a person's life and usually affect the left side of the face, often around the eye.
Hemifacial spasm is a relatively rare condition, affecting around 11 per 100,000 people.
Bell's palsy is a temporary condition that causes a weakness in the facial muscles, or partial facial paralysis. Facial spasms can occur when the facial nerves become compressed or swollen.
The cause of Bell's palsy is not known, though it is thought to be linked to conditions that include diabetes, high blood pressure, and ear infections. It can occur because of a virus, such as herpes simplex.
Facial muscle twitching is a possible complication of Bell's palsy, which can occur during or after recovery from this disorder.
Additional symptoms of Bell's palsy include:
- one side of the face dropping
- an inability to open or close the eyes
- difficulty smiling or controlling facial expressions
- difficulty eating or drinking
A person should consult a doctor if they experience any of the above symptoms.
Bell's palsy does not necessarily need treatment, as many cases get better on their own. However, it can be managed with the help of medications and eye drops.
Benign essential blepharospasm (BEB) is a condition where the eyelids close forcefully or spasm involuntarily. It is a type of dystonia or condition characterized by unusual movement or muscle tone.
Other signs of BEB include:
- frequent blinking
- dry eyes
- eye irritation
- involuntary squinting
- symptoms affecting both eyes
- onset in mid-to-late adulthood
Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections can help reduce twitching that occurs due to BEB. However, a person may need additional treatments, as the effects of Botox wear off.
Myectomy is a surgery where doctors remove muscles and nerves in the eyelids. Myectomy is an option for more severe cases of BEB.
Dystonia is when a person has muscle spasms that cause slow, repetitive twitching movements over which they have no control.
Dystonia can affect different areas of the body, including the eyes and eyebrows.
Dystonia may occur by itself, which is called primary dystonia. Secondary dystonia may be caused by:
The cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown. When someone has Tourette syndrome, they make involuntary movements, such as eye twitching, along with unintentional sounds. These are known as tics.
Tourette syndrome does not necessarily require treatment, though medications and therapy, can help to reduce symptoms.
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis affects the brain and spinal cord. It causes the immune system to attack the central nervous system, and muscle twitching can result from this.
Other symptoms of MS include:
- extreme tiredness
- trouble walking
- speech disorders
- difficulty concentrating
- memory problems
MS does not have a cure, but people can try different medications and therapies that can reduce their pain and discomfort and help to slow the disease.
Getting plenty of rest may help to reduce muscle spasms.
While most cases of eyelid and eyebrow twitching are harmless, a person should talk to their doctor to rule out any underlying causes of the twitching.
Usually, eyelid twitches are due to stress, fatigue, and too much caffeine. People can try to reduce instances of these by:
- drinking less caffeine
- getting more rest
- using eye drops, which are available at most pharmacies
- applying a warm compress to the eyes
- taking allergy medication, if an allergy is suspected
- getting enough magnesium in their diet
People should consult their doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- twitching that persists for more than a few weeks
- the eyelids or facial muscles droop
- swelling, redness, or discharge develops in or around the eyes
- twitching also occurs in other parts of the face or body
- the eyelid completely closes when it twitches
Eyebrow twitching usually resolves on its own. If twitching persists, people can try making lifestyle changes to fix the problem.
If twitches do not go away on their own or with home remedies, an individual should consider making an appointment with a doctor to rule out any underlying, more serious causes.