How I Finally (Finally!) Got My Eye to Stop Twitching

Or: “About That Time My Doctor Prescribed Gin and Tonics”


Alright, I think it’s time for a full health confession: There was a stretch of time in my life, which ended earlier this year, where I swear my left eye was twitching for nine months straight. I know that sounds outrageous. And I know I am often prone to exaggeration. But in this case, I promise you, I’m not exaggerating.

Here’s how I know: Sometime last summer, I went to the doctor for an annual checkup. I vividly remember telling her that my left upper eyelid had been twitching fairly regularly (i.e. for about 20 seconds every few minutes of every. single. day.) for the past month or so. I was sheepish to tell her because, like, duh she has more important things to worry about, like actually saving people’s lives and what not. But since she was being so kind, so understanding and so darn thorough, I thought I might as well lay every bothersome ailment on the line. Which brought me to:

“Doc, I know this is going to sound weird and all, but my left eye. See it? Right now? See how it’s twitching? It’s been doing that for at least the last month,” I said.

“Huh,” she replied, as she leaned in to get a closer look. “It doesn’t look too suspicious …”

“Yeah, but it’s really freaking annoying,” I interrupted. (Of course I did.) “And it’s embarrassing. I can see people looking at it when they’re talking to me. Please tell me I just need a new prescription for my glasses or something.”

“Hmmm,” she said. “Spastic eyelid muscles usually don’t have anything to do with your vision. Most likely, you’re really tired, really stressed out, have been drinking too much caffeine, or you’ve got some combination of the three.”

I thought about my sleep habits. I had been stressed and tired two months before when we put on our very first Be Well Boot Camp, but that was ancient history by then. And it was (and still is) a rare day if I drink more than one cup of coffee. Couldn’t be the caffeine. Hrumph.

“My advice is that you try to relax the lid, maybe massage it some, and try to ignore it,” she said. I love my doctor, but this just seemed like a cop out.

Nevertheless, over the next weeks and months (yes, months) I did what she said, closing my eyes for a few minutes and massaging, any time the twitch started. I also Googled the heck out of “twitching eye” and tried every home remedy I could find. Still, that dang left upper lid just kept right on twitching.

This past spring, I decided to get a second opinion and get my eyes checked. It’d been a few years since I’d been to the eye doctor, anyway, so a checkup couldn’t hurt. I so hoped my prescription was outdated so I could get some new specs, which would finally make my eye stop twitching, and I could move on with my life. But after another very thorough investigation …

“Your glasses prescription is fine,” the doctor told me. “They’re exactly the prescription I’d recommend to you to today, so you definitely don’t need new glasses.”

Siiiiiiigh.

“Then what the heck is wrong with me?!” I blurted out. He listed the same possible causes as my primary: fatigue. Too much caffeine. Stress. Nope, nope and nope.

“Well, I’m not sure what’s causing it for you, exactly,” he said, “but I do have one idea you can try. Tonic.”

Tonic? Like gin and tonic?

“Yes, like a gin and tonic,” he said. Wait, was my eye doctor actually telling me to go drink a gin and tonic, and in hopes that it would cure me?

Yes, yes he was. And here’s why: Tonic water contains quinine, and quinine is known to be a somewhat effective muscle relaxant, shown to help people with muscle cramping in a few studies. My doctor said he’d been at a medical conference a few months earlier, and he and a couple of eye-doctor friends got to talking about eye twitches. One of them mentioned that he’d had a patient with persistent eye twitching (me! me! me!) and he’d recommended that the patient guzzle some tonic water to help get the muscle to relax. And—guess what?—the patient said it worked.

“There aren’t any studies that I know of to back this up,” my doctor said. “But I’ve heard about it working, anecdotally, from several people.”

Obviously, I was going to try it.

So I marched out of his office, old glasses in hand, and headed straight to Rite Aid, where I loaded a basket with six bottles of diet tonic water. Then I promptly went back to my office and started chugging. Guys, have you ever had tonic water by itself, without alcohol? It’s pretty freaking gross. Kinda bitter. Kinda sweet. Mostly gross. But I didn’t care. I was so far past my wit’s end with this eye twitch, I was willing to try anything.

I can’t say for certain how many bottles of tonic I consumed that afternoon and evening, but I would guess it was somewhere between two and three. (Which is why I’m happy I found diet tonic. The regular stuff has so much sugar!) I didn’t notice any improvements in my eye twitch in the first few hours, but the next morning I woke up and … Huh, my eye’s not twitching, I thought to myself as I ate breakfast. And a couple of hours later, at work: Huh, my eye still hasn’t twitched once today. Not once. It went like this for the next few days. I would realize, suddenly, that the thing that had annoyed me for close to nine months at this point had finally, utterly, completely stopped. And it felt amazing.

I’ve had a few episodes of sporadic twitching since then, but whenever it flares up, I grab some tonic and it cures me within a few hours or a day. Done and done.

So there you have it: the story of why my doctor legitimately prescribed me gin and tonic as a health remedy. Well, just tonic technically, but you can’t blame a girl for occasionally adding a little gin to the mix, right? Right.

Photo: Shutterstock

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