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February 19, 2017
By A. Weinberg, Contributing Columnist
Good news: If your right eye jumps, you are about to receive good
Or at least, that’s what Trinidadian superstitions would have you
believe. Or perhaps someone is speaking well of you, or you will see
someone you haven’t seen in a long time. Myriad superstitions
surround the eye.
You’d better hope it’s your right eye though, if you’re the type to
believe in superstition. If the left jumps, you might hear bad news, be
being backstabbed, or someone you love could be in trouble.
Mystical vibes around the eye could go back to 600 BC, when the evil
eye concept was introduced: that a single malignant look could cause
misfortune to others.
Usually eyes twitching or jumping, whether the right eye or left, is
pretty innocuous, speaking in terms of science. Most of the time, the
sensation lasts for a few minutes. A couple flutters and the eye calms
down. Dr. Wayne Cornblath, a professor of ophthalmology at the
University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center confirms, “I think
everybody has these once in awhile. You rub it, and it eventually stops.”
Underlying causes are generally everyday solvable things. In a health
column in the Harvard Women's Health Watch, Dr. Celeste Robb-
Nicholson suggests ways to deal with eye jumping:
“There are several things you can do to ease the spasms. Close the eye
and apply a warm compress—or try pulling gently on the lid. Get more
sleep, and reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake. If the twitching
occurs while you're reading or using a computer, relax your eyes
occasionally by focusing on something in the distance. If your eyes are
dry or irritated, use lubricant eye drops.”
Read on to find out some 7 specific ways to keep those ocular orbs
from bouncing around.
1. Calm Down and Meditate
Dr. Monica L. Monica, doctor and clinical spokesperson for the American
Academy of Ophthalmology says that stress is the #1 culprit for eye
jumping. She says that “Typically the patient deals with the twitching
for a week or so when something is troubling them, they are in final
exams or just not sleeping well.” In other words, the eye jumping
thing might be temporary. See how you feel after a particularly anxiety-
driven situation passes. If your eye jumping and/or stress is chronic,
you might want to try some stress reduction techniques. One good one
is practicing mindful meditation: sitting with your eyes closed and
repeating a mantra for 20 minutes a day. There are a variety of
meditation practices, including active meditation. Research, and find out
which one suits you. Then try that technique, and see how your eyeball
2. Cut Down on Caffeine
Of course, you and your eye could be overly revved up due to external
factors. It's easy not to realize, if it's not a conscious part of your daily
One time, I was studying in a café where they gave free refills. Being
distracted, I wasn't aware that I had drunk about six cups of coffee
until it was too late. This may be happening to you, just in your daily
life. If you bring a thermos of coffee to work or have it free in your
office, you might not be conscious of how much you're actually
According to Dr. Wayne Cornblath, professor of ophthalmology at the
University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, caffeine can be a major
trigger. He reminds us that, “Caffeine is a stimulant, and it increases
reactivity in the muscles and nerves.” The exact chemical mechanisms
have not been pinpointed yet, but a 2002 study from Christine Walton
at York University affirms that caffeine releases excitatory
neurotransmitters, such as noradrenaline and serotonin. Which, while
usually happy chemicals, might make your eye a little too bouncy.
3. Improve Eye Strain
The nearsighted and even mildly myopic amongst us know this all too
well. You're trying to look at a bus coming towards you or something
closer, like the board at a meeting or in class. And you squint to try to
But more often than not, you don't even know you're straining your
eyes. You may need a glasses prescription change, according to
optometrist Burt Dubow from Insight Eye Care in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Even being ".25" off can make a difference.
If the eye jumping is a regular thing, and especially if it happens during
your work day, definitely go see your optometrist. They may be able to
tell you if your eye strain is regular or due to work.
You can ask them about special computer glasses, if this is the case.
Digital eye tiredness is a real thing: looking too often at a tablet,
smartphone, or computer, can make for jumpy orbs.
One technique you can try is the 20-20-20 rule: Every twenty minutes,
look away from the screen and let your eyes focus on an object in the
distance at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds or longer.
4. Heal Any Underlying Eye Conditions
It may not be your prescription or overuse of the computer; it may be
an underlying problem.
The most likely scenario is that you have a simple case of dry eye
syndrome, which, according to L.A.-based doctor, Jeremy Fine, is
usually caused by getting older, old or overused contact lenses, or
medications. It's best to change contact lenses as much as necessary
and check your medications.
You can also temporarily calm jumpiness with artificial tears or cold
water. Dr. Wayne Cornblath details some of the worse-case scenarios
for eye diseases: Blepharospasm is an involuntary blinking originating
from the central nervous system that progresses to both eyes. It can
cause temporary functional blindness at its most extreme, since the
eyes are fully open so little.
Hemifacial spasm is more likely to be mistaken for an innocent eye
jump. This disease comes with involuntary muscle twitches on one side
of the face, caused by compression of the 7th cranial nerve by a brain
The bottom line is, if your eye jumps are persistent and extreme,
definitely go consult an ophthalmologist.
5. Check If You Have Allergies, and Treat Them If Necessary
Allergies are a quite common cause. While they are not directly related
to the eye, like the symptoms above, they can definitely affect it. Like
overconsumption of coffee, it may simply be something you're not
Dust in the environment or visiting a feline friend could lead to
itchiness. Itchy, watery eyes are likely to be rubbed.
According to Dr. Dora Adamopoulos, optometrist at the eye2eye corner
optometry center in Illinois, after rubbing the eyes, histamine can be
released into the lid tissue and tears, causing the eyelid to twitch. If
regular drops aren't working for you, ask your eye doctor for
6. Get More Minerals, Especially Magnesium
A nutrient deficiency often makes an eye jumpy. Dr. Jeremy Fine
informs us that magnesium is the most likely culprit. If your eye keeps
hopping around, get your magnesium levels checked with a blood test.
You can also start eating more magnesium-rich foods right away,
'cause heck, they're good for you.
Try oatmeal, almonds, or spinach (but probably don't combine all
three). You can also take a magnesium supplement, after asking your
doctor which dosage is best for you. (Read more about why
magnesium is a man's best friend.)
7. Get Some Sleep
A twitchy eye could simply be requesting some shut eye. “Please, can I
just shut all the way?”
Franklin W. Lusby, opthamologist at the Lusby Vision Institute,
confirms that it's super important to get all the way rested up. This is
integrally tied into many other points.
Lack of sleep can cause stress, which makes an eye jump. Excessive
consumption of both alcohol and caffeine will interrupt your sleep
cycle. So, be holistic about the thing, and treat your whole body right.
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