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Myokymia is a condition that causes involuntary movements of the muscles. It can affect the face or any muscle groups in the body, especially smaller clusters such as the fingers. Myokymia can happen on its own, but is often a symptom of another neurological or movement disorder.
Facial myokymia typically occurs in the eyelids and affects the orbicularis oculi muscle that controls eyelid opening and closure, resulting in eyelid twitching. It can be caused by excessive stress or the consumption of alcohol or caffeine, which is usually temporary and goes away without treatment. The condition may also be a sign of hemifacial spasm, a disorder that starts as eye twitching and eventually affects one side of the face. Facial twitching may also be a symptom of blepharospasm, a disorder that impairs the brain’s ability to properly manage movement.
Limb myokymia can be in the form of light twitches or intense spasms. The condition can occur throughout the arms and legs, but tends to often inhibit hand movement control. It can be a symptom of multiple sclerosis, a disorder that harms the nervous system and limits muscle movement control. Involuntary limb movement can also be a sign of hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland doesn’t supply the body with enough hormones to properly control metabolism and energy levels. Although twitching or spasms are the most common symptoms of myokymia, they can end up leading to other symptoms. The constant involuntary movement can cause cramping or stiffness in the affected area or may also result in soreness and fatigue.
If myokymia is caused by lifestyle, it may not require treatment, especially if the culprit activities are changed. Some people may not find the condition bothersome enough to seek treatment or alter their lifestyles. If the condition is a symptom of an underlying medical condition, it may subside with appropriate treatment for the preexisting issue, although movement disorders often have no effective treatments.
Light exercise may help reduce the frequency of the constant movements, but it is typically supervised by a health professional in order to prevent worsening the condition. Anticonvulsant medications may also be prescribed to control excessive involuntary movements, especially if they occur often enough to hinder everyday activities. The medications keep the brain from sending out inappropriate movement signals to the muscle nerves.
Certain factors can worsen myokymia or make it more likely to occur. Mental or physical stress, such as depression or lack of sleep, can trigger episodes. Straining eyes to read or look at a bright computer or television screen may also make eyelid twitching more frequent.