What is Twitching?

wiseGEEK Writer

Muscle twitching is also called fasciculation, and it is usually a harmless transient condition. Many people may have experienced a few days of twitch, and it can commonly affect areas like the eyelid, the thumb or other places in the body. The condition is usually benign and goes away a few days to weeks after it first occurs. Should involuntary movement remain, it can have other causes that ought to be investigated to rule out serious illnesses or chemical imbalances.

Muscle twitching may be triggered by high levels of stress and fatigue.
Muscle twitching may be triggered by high levels of stress and fatigue.

Some of the very simple causes of muscle twitching include things like stress. A few days of high stress may result in some people experience involuntary contractions of a muscle. It may become more stressful if a muscle suddenly behaves in an uncontrollable way. On this issue, it’s merely important to note that the likelihood of this muscle behavior being anything medically significant is extremely low.

An ice pack may help reduce muscle twitching by decreasing the flow of blood to the affected area.
An ice pack may help reduce muscle twitching by decreasing the flow of blood to the affected area.

Other times, a person’s behavior or use of certain substances can induce twitching. Too much caffeine intake can cause one muscle to twitch. Other drugs people normally take might cause twitch as a side effect, and these include many antihistamines, certain steroids and estrogen. Muscles may also twitch if people exercise frequently or if people become very low in magnesium. However, twitching is usually a later sign of magnesium deficiency, and is accompanied with other serious signs of electrolyte dysfunction.

Muscle twitching may be caused by muscular dystrophy, which is a hereditary disease that causes progressive muscle degeneration.
Muscle twitching may be caused by muscular dystrophy, which is a hereditary disease that causes progressive muscle degeneration.

Many forms of twitching need absolutely no treatment and resolve quickly. This isn’t always the case, and when twitch of a muscle continues for some time, doctors may want to rule out potential serious causes. Muscle dysfunction of this type is in some cases associated with conditions like Lyme disease, muscular dystrophy, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Injury to muscles could also cause a twitch, and repairing that muscle when possible could help end it.

A person suffering from involuntary muscle twitching may experience an unsteady gait.
A person suffering from involuntary muscle twitching may experience an unsteady gait.

There tend to be other symptoms associated with twitching if it is caused by a serious condition like Lou Gehrig’s disease. Muscles may be weak or have decreased in size and people might note differences in the way they feel things throughout the body. It cannot be stressed enough that most repeated involuntary muscle contractions are not related to such illnesses. However, a physician should assess continued twitching in a muscle that lasts for more than a few days.

Finger twitching may be the result of playing video games for a long period of time.
Finger twitching may be the result of playing video games for a long period of time.

Physicians may be able to rule out some conditions when they examine and test those who have been experiencing twitching, but they can’t always find the cause of it. Many people who have this condition leave the doctor’s office with a diagnosis of benign fasciculation syndrome (BFS). Other symptoms associated with this condition can include fatigue and muscle cramping. Treatment for ongoing BFS may involve working to reduce anxiety and giving medications that are used to treat tremor.

Some people attempt to use caffeine to fight fatigue, and this may actually increase twitching symptoms.
Some people attempt to use caffeine to fight fatigue, and this may actually increase twitching symptoms.

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