A muscle twitch or myoclonus is a sudden involuntary contraction of the muscles in the body. This is not a disease, but it can be a symptom of various diseases or conditions affecting the brain or nerves controlling muscular activities. Although twitches can affect a single muscle, in most cases, it may involve an area of the body since the same nerves often serve other muscles, too.
Muscle twitches could be due to certain modifiable factors such as increased caffeine intake, poor diet, or lack of sleep in some children. Seek medical care to diagnose and treat underlying conditions causing muscle twitches in children since some causes may worsen over time.
Read this post to know more about the types, causes, signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of muscle twitches in children and ways to prevent it.
Types Of Muscle Twitches (Myoclonus) In Children
There are two basic types of muscle twitches (1).
- Positive myoclonus, which causes contraction of a muscle or muscle groups.
- Negative myoclonus, a sudden uncontrollable or involuntary muscle relaxation. Sudden muscle relaxation may cause a walking or standing person to fall.
The following types of myoclonus are seen in children based on the underlying cause and triggers (2).
- Essential myoclonus is stable (unchanged) over time, and there is no known underlying cause.
- Opsoclonus myoclonus, also known as dancing eyes-dancing feet syndrome, is a rare condition where rapid, irregular eye movements are seen with muscle spasms. This may often occur due to viral fevers, tumors, etc.
- Action myoclonus occurs when the child moves or tries to move. It is the most severe type, since the muscle spasms may disable arms, face, legs, and voice.
- Stimulus sensitive myoclonus is triggered by an external stimulus such as light, noise, or body movement.
It is essential to understand the cause and triggers of muscle twitching in children to eliminate it. Knowing about the type of muscles affected during the myoclonus episode is vital for evaluating the condition’s severity.
Causes Of Muscle Twitches In Children
The exact cause of muscle twitching is not well understood. An abnormal electrical impulse from parts of the central nervous system (CNS) such as the brain stem, cortex, or nerves to the muscle or a group of muscles causes muscle twitches. Damage to the peripheral nerves (nerves outside CNS) supplying muscle fibers may also cause myoclonic episodes.
- Head injuries
- Genetic disorders
- Spinal cord injuries
- Epilepsy disorders
- Brain tumors
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
- Hypoxia (lack of oxygen)
- Nervous system diseases
- Nerve damages
- Lack of sleep
- Poor nutrition intake
- Side effects of certain medications
- Hormonal imbalances
Conditions or diseases affecting the neural mechanism of muscular control may also lead to abnormal muscle movements. Children with frequent muscle twitches may require detailed analysis to identify and treat the underlying cause.
Symptoms Of Muscle Twitches In Children
- Poor muscle tone
- Tingling sensation
- Muscle becomes smaller
- Uncontrolled, jerky muscle movements
- Clumsy movements
The signs and symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause. A doctor may look for the muscles involved and triggers to diagnose the condition.
Diagnosis For Myoclonus In Children
A detailed medical history is obtained by the pediatrician to identify the possible causes and types of myoclonus. The doctor may also ask details about the signs and symptoms, possible triggers, the muscles involved, duration of twitching, etc.
According to the basic evaluation, more tests are ordered to confirm the underlying causes. These tests may include (7):
- Electromyography to assess the muscle activity in response to electrical impulses
- Electroencephalograph (EEG) to evaluate the electrical activity of the brain
- Imaging tests such as MRI, CT, PET scan, etc., to identify brain pathologies, such as tumors
- Blood tests to look for viral infections, certain genetic conditions, etc.
The pediatrician will evaluate the results of the test to identify the underlying causes and begin appropriate treatment.
Treatment For Muscle Twitches In Children
The treatment options may vary depending on the cause of the disease. If the reasons are not identifiable on examination, symptom-relieving medications are prescribed to manage the condition. These may include the following options (8).
- Drugs such as sedatives, tranquilizers (clonazepam), or anticonvulsants may be prescribed.
- Boys may receive treatment with anticonvulsants, such as valproic acid (Depakene). Valproic acid may cause side effects such as polycystic ovarian disease and weight gain in girls. Thus, girls may receive lamotrigine (Lamictal) for treating myoclonus.
- Topiramate (Topamax), levetiracetam (Keppra), and zonisamide (Zonegran) are other anticonvulsants of choice for treating muscle twitches.
- Sedatives such as barbiturates could reduce muscle twitches since they decrease brain activities.
- Surgical removal and chemotherapy for tumors could improve twitches if it is the cause.
- Behavioral therapy may be initiated if a lack of sleep is the cause.
- If the episode is triggered by light, movement, etc., it is recommended to avoid triggers as much as possible.
Depending on the severity and cause, the doctor may prescribe medications or procedures. Some conditions are curable with treatment, whereas few cases may require long-term management.
Home Care For Muscle Twitches In Children
Muscle twitching caused by certain lifestyle triggers can be managed with home remedies. These may include (9):
- Eat healthily
- Get good sleep
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, such as energy drinks, coffee, etc.
- Stay hydrated
- Exercise regularly
- Try to keep anxiety and stress at bay
- Use dim lights if light triggers muscle twitches
You may discuss with a pediatrician if the muscle twitches don’t get well with home care measures. Seek medical care for detailed analysis and follow home care measures if modifiable lifestyle factors are causing twitches.
The twitches may go away in short duration in some children if caused by certain triggers such as stress, dietary factors, side effects, etc. Muscle twitches due to nerve and brain conditions tend to last for a longer duration and could require medical treatment. Following a healthy diet and exercise regimen with good sleep could avoid myoclonus due to lifestyle-induced factors.
2. Myoclonus Fact Sheet; The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
3. Muscle Twitching; MedlinePlus; The United States National Library of Medicine
4. Myclonus; Bayer Medicine
5. What Causes Muscle Twitches?; Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital; Johns Hopkins Medicine
6. Myoclonic Epilepsy; Cedars Sinai
7. What You Need To Know About Muscle Twitching?; Medindia
8. John N. Caviness; Treatment of Myoclonus; The United States National Library of Medicine
9. Why do my muscles twitch?; Wexner Medical Center; The Ohio State University
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