A twitch is a small, involuntary contraction and relaxation of a muscle or group of muscles. The medical term for twitches is “fasciculations,” and they can occur in any muscular area, including the fingers.
People with finger twitching may worry that they are developing a neurological disorder. However, when this twitching does not accompany other symptoms, it is typically not a cause for concern.
Physical exertion, fatigue, and drinking too much caffeine can cause or worsen muscle twitching.
In this article, we explore nine causes of finger twitching and their treatments. We also offer advice about when to see a doctor.
1. Certain medications
Muscle spasms and twitching can be side effects of some medications, includingTrusted Source:
- isoniazid, an antibiotic
- succinylcholine, a muscle relaxant
- flunarizine, a drug that interrupts the movement of calcium
- topiramate, a drug that helps treat epilepsy
- lithium, a psychiatric medication
If a person thinks that a medication is causing muscle twitching, they should speak with their doctor before stopping the treatment.
The doctor may recommend lowering the dosage or switching to an alternative medication, if possible.
2. Magnesium deficiency
A magnesium deficiency can cause muscle cramps and tremors. This issue is rare among otherwise healthy people because the kidneys limit the amount of magnesium excreted in urine.
However, certain factors can increase the chances of developing a magnesium deficiency. These include:
- alcohol use disorder
- some other medical conditions
- certain medications
A person with a magnesium deficiency may initially experience:
- a loss of appetite
If the deficiency becomes severe, the person may experience additional symptoms, such as:
- muscle contractions and cramps
- an irregular heartbeat
- coronary spasms
- personality changes
A magnesium deficiency may affect other minerals in the body, such as calcium and potassium. Deficiencies in these minerals can cause additional symptoms and complications.
A doctor may recommend magnesium supplements. However, anyone who suspects that they have a nutrient deficiency should speak to a doctor before trying a supplement.
3. Vitamin E deficiency
In 2011Trusted Source, doctors reported a case of a male in his mid-20s who had a vitamin E deficiency and developed a tremor in his upper limbs and trunk. The man also experienced:
- changes in gait and posture
- difficulty articulating
- a decline in cognition
The medical team concluded that the tremor resulted from the vitamin E deficiency, but noted that this symptom of the deficiency is rare.
The treatment for involuntary movements caused by a vitamin E deficiency is a high dosage of oral vitamin E supplements.
Anyone who suspects that they have a nutrient deficiency should consult a doctor, who can recommend the right dosage of supplements.
4. Benign fasciculation syndrome
People with benign fasciculation syndrome (BFS) have widespread involuntary muscle twitches.
Symptoms are usually present for years, and some clinicians only diagnose BFS if the symptoms have existed for at least 5 yearsTrusted Source.
Doctors do not know what causes BFS. However, one 2013 study found a link between this syndrome and decreased neurological activity in the small nerve fibers in the skin and sweat glands. Confirming this relationship will require more research.
BFS does not progressTrusted Source to motor neuron disease and does not require treatment.
Nonetheless, researchers have successfully controlled muscle twitching with the drug gabapentin, which acts on the nervous system.
Also, some doctorsTrusted Source have found that certain drugs that treat epilepsy, such as carbamazepine and phenytoin, can reduce muscle twitches.
It is worth noting, however, that using the drugs above to treat twitching constitutes off-label use. “Off-label use” refers to a doctor treating one condition with a drug that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved to treat a different condition.
5. Essential tremor
Essential tremor is the repeated, involuntary movement of a body part. In a person with essential tremor, the movements occur with consistent frequency and force.
Essential tremor is the most common neurological cause of tremors, but doctors do not know what causes the condition.
People usually experience essential tremor in their hands. In some people, the tremor extends to the arms or head, and it can also affect a person’s voice.
Essential tremor does not change a person’s life expectancy. However, it can affect a person’s quality of life and cause disability.
Some people seek treatment for essential tremor, and both medical and nonmedical interventions can help.
Regarding medication, doctors will use trial and error to find the most appropriate drug and dosage for each person. The following table lists the first, second, and third lines of treatment for essential tremor.
|First line of treatment||Second line of treatment||Third line of treatment|
|combination of propranolol and primidone||topiramate|
These drugs have not received FDA approval to treat essential tremor specifically, but some doctors prescribe them for this purpose on an off-label basis.
Also, a person may find that weighing down the affected area helps control their tremor. For example, a weighted wrist band may help with essential tremor in the hand.
Additionally, doctors may recommend relaxation techniques for people whose tremors are worsened by anxiety. They may also recommend avoiding caffeine, as this can increase tremors.
There are four parathyroid glands. They are small, they sit inside the neck, and they produce parathyroid hormone, which helps raise levels of calcium in the blood.
The term “hyperparathyroidism” refers to overactivity of one or more parathyroid glands. This overactivity causes an imbalance in calcium and potassium in the body, which may lead to muscle twitching.
Other symptoms of hyperparathyroidism include:
- muscle aches
- muscle weakness
- joint and bone pain
- digestive problems
- problems with memory and concentration
- kidney problems
The only known cure for hyperparathyroidism is surgery to remove the affected parathyroid glands.
Certain drugs, such as bisphosphonates and synthetic estrogen, may decrease calcium or parathyroid hormone levels and improve bone-related symptoms. However, they cannot cure hyperparathyroidism.
7. Tourette’s syndrome
Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary and repetitive movements and vocalizations. Doctors refer to these occurrences as “tics.”
People with Tourette’s syndrome have multiple tics that start during childhood. Movement, or motor, tics are sudden and recurrent. They are usuallyTrusted Source triggered by an urge and can affect any part of the body.
In order to receive a diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome, a person must experience:
- multiple motor tics and one or more vocal tics throughout the illness, though these may not occur together
- tics that persist for more than 1 year
- symptoms that begin before the age of 18
- symptoms that are unrelated to substances or other medical conditions
Doctors usually do not prescribe medication to treat Tourette’s syndrome. However, children tend to respond well to behavioral interventions for tics.
Children with Tourette’s syndrome may have accompanying psychiatric disorders that require appropriate treatment. These may include:
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD
- obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD
- anxiety disorder
- oppositional defiant disorder, or ODD
Over time, tics can disappear, but symptoms of any psychiatric disorder may persist.
8. Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the brain that usually occurs in adults over 50.
A person with Parkinson’s may experience a tremor. This typically begins on one side of the body and worsens over time.
Some other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:
- unstable posture
- difficulty walking
- slow movements
Parkinson’s disease causes a loss of cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This area makes dopamine, a neurochemical that helps control and coordinate body movements.
Doctors initially treat Parkinson’s disease with the drug levodopa. This is a synthetic version of an amino acid that the body converts into dopamine.
Taking supplementary levodopa helps control some symptoms of dopamine deficiency.
As the disease progresses, people need additional treatments. Doctors may prescribe the following drugs in addition to levodopa:
- Catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitors and monoamine oxidase inhibitors: These help slow the depletion of dopamine and increase the availability of levodopa.
- Drugs that act on acetylcholine receptors: These help reduce muscle twitching and rigidity.
A doctor may also prescribe ropinirole or pramipexole to further activate dopamine receptors in the brain.
9. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive motor neuron disease, and its symptoms gradually worsen over time.
In the beginning stages, ALS can cause muscle twitches in the hand or arm. Over time, a person may develop muscle weakness, which can spread to other parts of the body.
Swallowing, speech, and breathing problems can occur as the disease continues to progress.
Some common symptoms of ALS include:
- muscle twitches
- muscle cramps
- muscle tightness and stiffness
- muscle weakness
- slurred, nasal speech
- difficulty chewing or swallowing
Currently, there is no cure for ALS. However, certain treatments can help control symptoms, prevent complications, and improve the quality of life.
The FDA have, so far, approved the following medications to treat ALS:
- Riluzole: This drug reduces damage to neurons involved in movement, although it cannot reverse the damage.
- Edaravone: This drug slows a decline in daily functioning.
When to see a doctor
In young, healthy people, finger twitching is likely a symptom of overexertion. Often, this stems from overuse of cellphones, computers, and video games.
If the twitching continues, with no clear cause, consult a doctor. They will likely perform an examination to rule out a neurological disorder.
If finger twitching affects daily activities or the quality of life, see a doctor. Some causes can be treated with rest or vitamin supplements, while others require further medical intervention.
People who experience finger twitching may worry that they have a neurological disorder. However, there are many relatively harmless causes of this issue, including overexertion, fatigue, and consuming too much caffeine.
If finger twitching results from a neurological diseases, the person will usually experience additional signs and symptoms.
See a doctor if there is no clear cause of finger twitching or if the movements persist or worsen.