1/17/12

Is Twitching Thumb Normal or Possibly ALS?

Could a twitching thumb mean the beginning of ALS? It’s understandable that this symptom can cause a lot of anxiety, since twitching can be a symptom of ALS. 
However, realize that when your thumb twitches, this can stir up a lot of needless fear simply because this part of the body is so small. As a result, the thumb visibly moves or even jumps when it twitches. Rest assured, this visible movement or jerking does not mean that you might have ALS.

The thumb is made up of voluntary muscles, so it’s just as capable of twitching as any other muscle is. Don’t let the small size put fear into you. Here is some information about ALS:

“Weakness in ALS is progressive and not intermittent,” says Kristina Lafaye, M.D., board certified neurologist, assistant clinical professor of neurology at Tulane University School of Medicine, full time clinical staff and director of the neurophysiology  lab at Ochsner Medical Center.

If you’re concerned that a twitching thumb could be a sign of ALS, take these finger strength tests. If you do well with these tests, this should provide a lot of reassurance that you’re probably just worked up with a ton of anxiety.

“The key point with benign fasciculations is that, for whatever reason, they occur but do not represent an ominous underlying condition,” says Dr. Lafaye. A fasciculation is a muscle twitch. 

“Yes, some people with benign fasciculations could experience them 24/7 (or so they say, I'm a little skeptical of that), but if nothing else is wrong, then I wouldn't probe further.”

What if your thumb is twitching many times per hour or even per minute? “I don't do any kind of a frequency count,” says Dr. Lafaye, “because if a person doesn't have evidence of denervation which, if present, would indicate an MND, myelopathy, or some other condition, then it doesn't warrant any further neurologic evaluation.”

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