Benign Fasciculation Syndrome: Is it Really Benign?

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The conditions that are known as neurological disorders include a number of diseases that have an effect on the nerves, brain, and spinal cord.

In many cases, neurological symptoms are experienced occasionally by people who are actually healthy and are not associated with any specific condition, disease, or disorder.

These include tremors, dizziness, muscle twitching, cramping, numbness, and pain. Some of these symptoms can be minor while others can be debilitating and even life-threatening.

Benign fasciculation syndrome, or BFS, is not as severe as other neurological conditions but is aggravating none the less. Sometimes it is referred to as “fasciculation syndrome†or “muscle twitching syndrome†and is characterized by a rapid cycle of tightening and loosening of the muscles.

What is Benign Fasciculation Syndrome?

The condition of BFS is distinguished by twitching of the body’s voluntary muscles. This twitching can be occasional or almost continuous.

This form of muscle twitching is also present with more serious conditions such as multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or spinal injury.

This is the reason why individuals with BFS can be very worried and nervous about the twitching.

Who is at Risk & Symptoms of Benign Fasciculation Syndrome

The condition of BFS can have an effect on anyone- regardless of age or sex. Some individuals develop this condition after a viral infection.

It is primarily characterized by twitching of different muscles in the body. Any collection of muscles in the body can be affected by this condition, including eyelids, arms, back, legs, or fingers. In some cases, the tongue can be affected.

The twitching is very similar to that which can occur in healthy individuals, but with BFS, the twitching lasts for much longer periods of time.

The twitches will typically occur when the muscle is resting and will stop once the muscle is moved. The condition will most commonly migrate from one area to another, but it is not unheard of for it to return to areas previously affected.

During periods of stress, infection, or exertion, the twitching is exacerbated and is a little more pronounced at night or when at rest.

Individuals may notice their symptoms improving in a few months but symptoms can continue for several months to years.

Finally, the individual will most likely experience periods where their symptoms are mild and periods where their symptoms are more intense- and in some cases, the condition can clear up completely.

Over time, it is possible for the twitching to become less severe and the length of remission periods can increase.

Other Benign Fasciculation Syndrome Symptoms

Some of the other signs and symptoms associated with the condition of BFS are as follows:

  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling/pain
  • Muscle stiffness

Benign Fasciculation Syndrome

ALS versus BFS

As mentioned, individuals suffering from BFS are often anxious because the twitching is similar to that of ALS. However, here are a few things you should remember:

  • ALS is a very rare condition and BFS is much more common.
  • ALS most commonly is characterized by weakness and also twitching. BFS is most commonly characterized by the twitching, which can be accompanied by fatigue.
  • ALS weakness is due to muscle tissue loss and can be clinically tested and verified. The weakness of BFS is a perceived one and cannot be clinically tested or validated.
  • The twitching related to BFS starts in one area and migrates to others. The twitching related to ALS will start at one area of the body and will progress through the rest of the body over time.
  • The twitching related to BFS occurs in healthy muscles and the ALS twitches occur in the muscle tissue that is dying. This can be determined using an EMG: with ALS, the EMG will be abnormal, while with BFS it will remain normal.

Causes of Benign Fasciculation Syndrome

Just as with many other chronic conditions, the cause of the condition of BFS is not known at this time.

Muscle twitching can result from diseased muscle, nerves that control the muscle, or an issue at the neuromuscular junction. In the condition of BFS, the precise site of the condition is not clear.

Physical exertion, anxiety, and stress are related to the severity of your signs and symptoms but do not cause the condition of BFS.

Researchers believe that BFS is an autoimmune reaction of the body to viral infections. In addition, there could be a link to:

  • Using drugs such as dimenhydrinate
  • Continual exposure to specific insecticides
  • Withdrawal of opioids
  • Magnesium and other micronutrient deficiency

Diagnosing Benign Fasciculation Syndrome

Typically, individuals with BFS have a history of muscle twitching that becomes worse by overexertion or anxiety.

An official diagnosis of BFS is made only by excluding other possible causes for the muscle twitches such as multiple sclerosis, ALS, or other neurological conditions.

A detailed neurological exam will be done, where brisk reflexed will most likely be revealed. One of the most important diagnostic tools is the EMG.

Since the condition of BFS is not associated with nerve damage, the EMG will be normal or mostly normal. The condition of BFS should only be diagnosed after all other possibilities have been excluded.

Any change in the signs and symptoms, including progression and/or development of weakness should prompt the physician to do a further examination to rule out the condition of ALS.

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Treating Benign Fasciculation Syndrome

The truth is that there really is no definitive treatment for the condition of BFS. There are a few measures that are considered such as:

  • Anti-anxiety drugs
  • Management of stress
  • Reducing stimulant use, including nicotine and caffeine
  • Methods for total relaxation

In addition, there are several medications as well as dietary supplements that have been used with some measured benefits, including the following:

  • Propranolol
  • Quinine
  • Verapamil
  • Dietary supplements such as magnesium
  • Anti-epileptic medications

The causes and treatments for the condition of BFS are not clear. However, you should know that the twitching, while annoying is definitely not life-threatening.

Still, if you begin to experience muscle twitching, it is best to take the time to monitor your symptoms on your own and if any others appear, see your physician as soon as you can to rule out any more serious conditions.