While winks have often been considered attractive or flirtatious, when uncontrolled they can be irritating. Blinking serves us well to cleanse and protect the eye, but when it progresses to a tic or a twitch, it can become uncomfortable. A variety of conditions can cause the muscles operating the eyelids to become weak or to spasm.
Blepharospasm is a combination of the Latin word for eyelid and the word spasm, which is an uncontrolled muscle movement. This is a mostly harmless condition that does not cause any damage to the eyes or to health. However, it can advance to technical blindness, where spasms are severe and the eyelids shut down the eyes to light. Medications, biofeedback training, and sometimes surgery can help relieve the symptoms.
Drooping eyelids, or eyelid ptosis, may have a variety of causes, including age-related changes in the eyelid skin or muscle, or even muscle weakness or paralysis in the upper eyelid. Eyelid ptosis can vary from a cosmetic problem to a condition in which the drooping eyelid blocks vision. Surgery is typically effective to correct eyelid ptosis.
Other common eyelid problems include ectropion and entropion, in which the lower eyelid is rotated away from or toward the eye, respectively. These abnormal lower eyelid positions may lead to significant redness and irritation of the eye. Treatment is directed at the cause and often includes surgery.
Inflammation or allergies can cause redness, swelling, and irritation of the eyes and eyelids, a common condition called blepharitis. Medical therapy is usually an effective treatment.