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Muscle twitching

Muscle twitches are fine movements of a small area 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

  • 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/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's 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 usually needed for benign muscle twitching.

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 health care provider will take a medical history and perform a physical examination.

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:

Alternative Names

Muscle fasciculation; Fasciculations of muscle

References

Chinnery PF. Muscle diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 429.

Griggs RC, Jozefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 403.

Update Date: 2/24/2014

Updated by: Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. 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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