Lip twitching can be a rather disturbing symptom for some even though in most cases the cause behind it may not be serious. Most cases of a twitching lip may be due to stress, fatigue, emotion, excessive caffeine intake (drinking large amounts of coffee or caffeinated soft drinks), or some deficiency in the diet such as potassium. Lip twitching in most cases is self-limiting, disappearing in minutes or maybe in a few days without any residual problems. However persistent lip twitching with other signs and symptoms should be investigated for other underlying disorders.

Twitching of the lips is a sudden involuntary contraction of the lip muscles. It may also be due to contraction of the muscle fibers as a result of direct stimulation or irritation or injury of the nerve supplying these muscles. Tics, spasms, tremors, and fasciculations (general muscle twitching) may also cause twitches of the lip.

Lip twitching or lip fasciculations are abnormal irregular contractions of muscle fibers of the lips. Twitches may occur suddenly even when the lips are at rest or may happen after direct stimulation of the lips – pressure, electrical, chemical or heat. Lip twitches are usually rapid, almost imperceptible movements of the lips that occur during a purposeful action such as pursing the lip and may indicate muscle fatigue.

Causes of Lip Twitching

The most common causes of lip twitching are :

  • Stress.
  • Fatigue.
  • Severe anxiety.
  • Emotions, such as anger, amusement, fear.
  • Potassium deficiency.
  • Excessive stimulant intake – coffee, certain soft drinks, tea, chocolate and over-the-counter (OTC) stimulants.
  • Alcohol withdrawal or abuse.
  • Cigarette or nicotine withdrawal

Other causes of lip twitching may include :

  • Damage or irritation of the facial nerve due to any cause.
  • Bell’s palsy may cause occasional twitching of the lips and a facial droop is usually present.

Causes of Persistent Lip Twitching

Hemifacial Spasm

Involuntary facial movements, including twitching of the lips, occurs in this condition which may be aggravated or initiated by fatigue or anxiety. Compression of the facial nerve by a tumor may also be a cause, but it is usually idiopathic meaning that no cause can be identified.

Tics

A facial tic may involve the eyes or muscles of the face and lips. There is repeated spasm of the involved muscles. Tics occur frequently in childhood and often resolve on their own but may sometimes continue throughout life. Stress is known to aggravate this condition.

Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette’s syndrome is different from short-lived childhood tics. Symptoms are caused by repeated involuntary muscle spasms resulting in :

  • Mouth twitching.
  • Nose wrinkling.
  • Grimacing of the mouth.
  • Tongue movement.
  • Blinking.
  • Throat clearing.

This syndrome also includes behavioral problems.

Parkinson’s Disease

In Parkinson’s disease, twitching or tremor of the lips may occur as rhythmical involuntary, movements affecting one or both lips, along with other signs and symptoms of the disease. This tremor of the lips occurs at rest and may stop while performing activities such as eating or speaking – typical of resting tremors in Parkinson’s disease. Twitching of the lips is not observed when the patient is sleeping. In later stages of the disease, lip twitching may continue even when the patient is talking or eating.

Other signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may include :

  • Tremor, usually starting in the hands.
  • Slowness of movement.
  • Muscle stiffness.
  • Problems with balance and co-ordination.
  • Slow monotonous speech.
  • Walking with short shuffling steps.
  • Fixed facial expression with a staring gaze and little or no blinking.

Hypoparathyroidism

In hypoparathyroidism there is low levels of calcium and elevated phosphorus levels in the body as a result of low production of parathyroid hormone. This gives rise to a number of symptoms, such as :

  • Tingling, numbness and burning sensation in the fingertips, toes and lips.
  • Muscle cramps in the legs, feet, abdomen or face.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation).
  • Dry and rough skin.
  • Brittle nails.
  • Patchy hair loss.
  • Depression.

Twitching of the hands and feet, may also occur in patients suffering with hypoparathyroidism.

DiGeorge Syndrome

A defect in chromosome 22 results in this syndrome where there is poor development of several body systems. It is often associated with defects in the heart, cleft palate, behavioral problems and poorly functioning parathyroid glands. Signs and symptoms may be present at birth or develop later and will depend on the body systems affected. These symptoms may include :

  • Bluish skin.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Failure to gain weight.
  • Easily fatigued.
  • Twitching of the lips and muscles around the mouth.
  • Spasms of the hands or legs.
  • Frequent infections.

Essential Tremor

This is one of the most common types of tremor and usually involves the arms, hands and head. The tremor occurs most frequently on stretching the arms or trying to perform some activity and is often associated with neurological disorders. There may be a family history of essential tremor although often, no known cause can be identified. It is minimal at rest and may disappear during sleep. There may be periods of uncontrollable tremors and even shaking of parts of the body that subsides after a short period of time.

Drug Induced Tremor

These tremors may arise from long term alcohol abuse or narcotic use, including crystal meth addiction. Drug induced tremors may also be present as a result of opiate withdrawal and can be severe during the detoxification phase. It may also persist after rehabilitation as is seen in recovering addicts, along with other symptoms like head tremor, voice, tongue and lip tremor, causing difficulty with speech.

Hysterical Tremor

A hysterical tremor usually occurs in a heightened emotional state. This sort of tremor or twitching of the lips disappears or reduces when the patient is distracted.


Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on December 18, 2009