What causesa muscle twitch?

Muscle twitches are caused by involuntary muscle contractions due to the firing of single motor nerves. Although muscle twitches are generally naturally occurring events, they can sometimes be due to underlying conditions, lifestyle habits, or medications.

Common causes of muscle twitches

Muscle twitches may be caused by common events or lifestyle habits including:

  • Dehydration (loss of body fluids and electrolytes, which can be life threatening when severe and untreated)
  • Exercise
  • Vitamin deficiencies

Less common causes of muscle twitches

Muscle twitches may be caused by less common underlying conditions or diseases including:

  • Benzodiazepine withdrawal
  • Damage to the nerve that supplies a muscle

Medications or drugs that can cause muscle twitches

Muscle twitches may be caused or increased by certain medications or drugs including:

  • Amphetamines
  • Asthma bronchodilators, such as albuterol
  • Caffeine overdose
  • Pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed
  • Stimulant drugs, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Serious or life-threatening causes of muscle twitches

In some cases, muscle twitches may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease; severe neuromuscular disease that causes muscle weakness and disability)
  • Muscular dystrophy (inherited disorder that causes a progressive loss of muscle tissue and muscle weakness)
  • Myasthenia gravis (autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that causes muscle weakness)
  • Parkinson’s disease (brain disorder that impairs movement and coordination)
  • Poisoning, such as with organophosphate
  • Rabies

Questions for diagnosing the cause of muscle twitches

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your muscle twitches including:

  • How long have you had muscle twitches?
  • Where are you experiencing muscle twitches?
  • Do you experience muscle twitches in more than one location?
  • Are you taking any medications?
  • Are your muscle twitches persistent?
  • Do you have any other medical conditions?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • How long do your muscle twitches last?

What are the potential complications of a muscle twitch?

Generally, muscle twitches are naturally occurring events that may increase in frequency during times of heightened stress or anxiety and that do not typically cause complications. However, muscle twitches can be a sign of more serious underlying conditions or diseases, some of which may be life threatening. Because muscle twitches can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Difficulty or inability to perform daily tasks
  • Disability
  • Loss of strength
  • Paralysis
  • Permanent or chronic pain

References:

Muscle twitching. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003296.htm. Accessed May 16, 2011.

Muscle cramp. AAOS: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00200. Accessed May 16, 2011.

INTRODUCTION

What is a muscle twitch?

Muscle twitches, also known as fasciculations, are involuntary muscle contractions that are minimal in force and localized to one area. Muscle twitches occur in small muscle groups that are connected to a single motor nerve fiber. This differentiates muscle twitches from muscle cramps, which generally affect multiple muscle groups in a given area (for instance, many muscles in the calf) at... Read more about muscle twitchintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with a muscle twitch?

Muscle twitches may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. While muscle twitches may be accompanied by other symptoms, muscle twitches are usually isolated events that will not be associated with other symptoms.... Read more about muscle twitchsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles


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