Infrequent occurrences of eye twitching are normal, but eye twitching can also be a continuous or a frequent phenomenon, and can be a symptom of a neurological disorder, reports the American Psychiatric Association 5. Other causes of repeated or intense eye twitching include alcohol and drugs that slow down the neurological system via the so-called GABA pathway. Alcohol and benzodiazepines, a group of drugs that include Valium and Xanax, cause GABA expressing-neurons to produce large amounts of GABA. This results in a significant retardation of the neurological system, which can cause involuntary movements and facial twitching.
Tourette syndrome is a chronic neurological disorder that gives rise to involuntary motor and vocal tics, such as eye twitching, grimacing and vocalizations. Contrary to popular portrayals of the disorder, the tendency to repeat curse words is not a common effect of Tourette syndrome. Tourette syndrome is commonly treated with anti-psychotic medication. This reduces tics to some extent but can also act as a sedative. A more effective way to reduce tics is to undergo a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy called "comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics," or CBIT, reports a UCLA research team in the May 19, 2010 issue of "Journal of the American Medical Association." The researchers randomly assigned CBIT and other forms of counseling to 126 children and adolescents with severe cases of Tourette syndrome, and found that CBIT led to a more significant reduction of the occurrence of tics than alternative treatments 1.
Bell's palsy is a kind of facial paralysis that arises when the seventh cranial nerve, which controls movement of face muscles, is injured 2. It commonly gives rise to drooling, droopy eyelids and motor tics, such as eye twitching and facial twitching. Researchers used to believe that the Herpes virus was the trigger of Bell's palsy. However, a Cochrane meta-analysis of previous data shows that antiviral agents used to treat cold sores and genital herpes have no significant effect on Bell's palsy, which casts doubt on the hypothesis that Herpes is a trigger of this condition. The findings were published in the November 2009 issue of "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews."
Dystonia is a neurological disorder that typically results in repetitive movements, abnormal postures, twisting or facial tics, including eye switching. Dystonia can be birth-related or a result of poisoning, infection or drug abuse. People with the hereditary form of Dystonia have a defect on the DYT1 gene, leading to misformations of the protein torsinA, which protects against cell stress, reports a research team in the March 10, 2010 issue of "Disease Models & Mechanisms." The team found that ampicillin, a drug in the penicillin group, can activate torsinA and prevent untimely muscle contractions 3.
Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that leads to tremor, eye twitching, postural imbalance and difficulty initiating movement. At the molecular level, Parkinson's occurs as a result of an impairment of the activity of microRNAs, molecules that help cells produce protein. The findings were published in the July 29, 2010 issue of "Nature." When the activity of the microRNAs is impaired, neurons that help to produce dopamine undergo premature death, and this causes a difficulty in initiating and controlling motor activity, the Stanford researchers found.
- JAMA: Behavior Therapy for Children With Tourette Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Antiviral Treatment for Bell's Palsy (Idiopathic Facial Paralysis)
- Disease Models & Mechanisms: Chemical Enhancement of Torsin -- A Function in Cell and Animal Models of Torsion Dystonia
- Nature: Pathogenic LRRK2 Negatively Regulates MicroRNA-Mediated Translational Repression
- Benzodiazepine Dependence, Toxicity, and Abuse: A Task Force Report of the American Psychiatric Association; The American Psychiatric Association; 1990
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images