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Muscle twitching

Definition

Muscle twitches are fine movements of a small area of muscle.

Alternative Names

Muscle fasciculation; Fasciculations of muscle

Considerations

Muscle twitching is caused by minor muscle contractions in the area, or uncontrollable twitching of a muscle group that is served by a single motor nerve fiber.

Muscle twitches are minor and often go unnoticed. Some are common and normal. Others are signs of a nervous system disorder.

Causes

Causes may include:

  • Autoimmune disorders, such as Isaac syndrome.
  • Drug overdose (caffeine, amphetamines, or other stimulants).
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Drug side effect (such as from diuretics, corticosteroids, or estrogens).
  • Exercise (twitching is seen after exercise).
  • Lack of nutrients in the diet (deficiency).
  • Stress.
  • Medical conditions that cause metabolic disorders, including low potassium, and kidney disease, and uremia.
  • Twitches not caused by disease or disorders (benign twitches), often affecting the eyelids, calf, or thumb. These twitches are normal and quite common, and are often triggered by stress or anxiety. These twitches can come and go, and usually do not last for more than a few days.

Nervous system conditions that can cause muscle twitching include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS - Lou Gehrig disease)
  • Neuropathy or damage to the nerve that leads to a muscle
  • Spinal muscular atrophy
  • Weak muscles (myopathy)

Symptoms of a nervous system disorder include:

  • Loss of, or change in, sensation
  • Loss of muscle size (wasting)
  • Weakness

Home Care

No treatment is needed for benign muscle twitching in most cases.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have long-term or persistent muscle twitches or if twitching occurs with weakness or loss of muscle.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will take a medical history and perform a physical exam.

Medical history questions may include:

  • When did you first notice the twitching?
  • How long does it last?
  • How often do you experience twitching?
  • What muscles are affected?
  • Is it always in the same location?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Tests depend on the suspected cause, and may include:

References

Griggs RC, Józefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 396.

Selcen D. Muscle diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 421.

Review Date:2/27/2016
Reviewed By:Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, attending neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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