A twitching lip — when your lip shakes or trembles without you trying — can be annoying and embarrassing. It could also be the sign of a larger medical problem. Your lip twitches may be muscle spasms associated with something as simple as drinking too much coffee, or they may be tremors that are early signs of a brain disorder like Lou Gehrig’s disease.
1. Excess caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant and could be causing your lip twitching if you drink it in excess. The technical term for this condition is “caffeine intoxication.” You might have this condition if you drink more than three cups of coffee per day and experience at least five of the following symptoms:
- muscle twitching
- excessive energy
- increased urine output
- rambling speech
- flushed face
- upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea
- fast or abnormal heartbeat
- psychomotor agitation such as tapping or pacing
Muscle twitching, or fasciculation, is a known side effect of many prescription and over-the-counter drugs like estrogens, diuretics, and steroids. Talk with your doctor about switching medications, which is a simple treatment for this symptom.
3. Potassium deficiency
You might experience lip twitching if you have low levels of potassium in your system. This mineral is an electrolyte and helps carry nerve signals in the body. Potassium deficiencies can negatively affect the muscles and cause spasms and cramps. Treatment for potassium deficiency includes adding potassium-rich foods to the diet and avoiding medications that could be affecting your potassium levels.
4. Alcoholic neuropathy
Addictive drugs and alcohol can cause significant amounts of nerve damage and impact brain functioning. If you’ve consumed high quantities of alcohol or drugs for a long period of time and you experience facial muscle spasms like lip twitching, you could have alcoholic neuropathy. Treatments include limiting alcohol consumption, taking vitamin supplements and taking prescription anticonvulsants.
5. Bell’s palsy
People with Bell’s palsy experience temporary paralysis on one side of the face. Each case is different, but in some cases it makes it difficult for a person to move their nose, mouth, or eyelids. In other cases, the person with Bell’s palsy may experience twitching and weakness on one side of their face.
Doctors don’t know what causes Bell’s palsy, but it’s believed to be linked to the oral herpes virus. Your doctor can diagnose the condition from looking at you while you experience symptoms. There are a variety of treatment methods based on your symptoms. Some of the most common are steroids and physical therapy.
6. Hemifacial spasms & tics
Also known as tic convulsif, hemifacial spasms are muscle spasms that occur on one side of the face. These tics are most common in women over 40 and Asians. They are not life threatening, but can be uncomfortable and distracting.
Hemifacial spasms occur because of damage to the seventh cranial nerve, which affects the face muscles. Another condition could have caused this nerve damage, or it could be the result of a blood vessel pressing on the nerve.
Hemifacial spasm can be diagnosed using imaging tests like MRI, CAT scan, and angiography. Botox injections are the most common form of treatment, although they need to be repeated every six months to remain effective. The medication partially paralyzes the muscle to stop the twitching. A surgery called microvascular decompression is also an effective long-term treatment that removes the vessel causing the tics.
7. Tourette syndrome
Tourette syndrome is a disorder that causes you to involuntarily make sounds or movements repetitively. Tourette syndrome can involve motor and speech tics. They are often embarrassing, but are not painful or life threatening. Men are four times more likely than women to develop Tourette syndrome, and symptoms typically appear between ages 2–15 years old.
Doctors don’t know what causes Tourette syndrome, although it’s believed to be hereditary, and there is no cure for the disorder. Treatments include therapy and medication. For those with motor tics like lip twitching, Botox may be the most effective course of treatment.
8. Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes tremors, stiffness, and slow movements. The disease is degenerative, meaning it gets worse over time. Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease typically include slight tremors of the lower lip, chin, hands, or leg.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — commonly known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease — is a brain disease that affects the nerves and spinal cord. Some of the early symptoms are twitching, slurred speech, and muscle weakness. ALS is degenerative and fatal. Your doctor can diagnose ALS using a spinal tap and electromyography. There is no cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease, but there are two drugs on the market to treat it: Riluzole and Radicava.
10. DiGeorge syndrome
People with DiGeorge syndrome are missing part of chromosome 22, which causes several body systems to develop poorly. Some call DiGeorge 22q11.2 deletion syndrome.
DiGeorge syndrome can cause underdeveloped facial characteristics, which can lead to twitching around the mouth, cleft palate, blueish skin, and difficulty swallowing. DiGeorge syndrome is typically diagnosed at birth. While there is no way to prevent the disorder or cure it, there are ways to treat each symptom individually.
One common symptom of hyperparathyroidism is twitching around the mouth, throat, and hands. If your lip twitching is accompanied by hair loss, aching feet or legs, and tingling fingertips, you could have this thyroid condition. Treatment options include a calcium-rich diet or calcium supplements, vitamin D supplements, and parathyroid hormone injections.
Lip twitching is a motor symptom, so it’s easy for doctors to see the tremors you’re experiencing. A physical exam to evaluate other symptoms may be one way for your doctor to diagnose what’s causing the twitches. Your doctor may also ask you some questions about your lifestyle, such as how frequently you drink coffee or alcohol.
If no other symptoms are visible, your doctor may need to run some tests for a diagnosis. These can vary from blood tests or urinalysis to an MRI or CAT scan.
There are a variety of causes of lip tremors, and therefore a wide variety of treatment methods. For some people, the easiest way to stop lip twitching is eating more bananas or other foods high in potassium. For others, getting Botox injections is the best way to get rid of the tremors. Talk with your healthcare provider about what’s causing your lip twitching and the best way to stop this symptom.
If you haven’t seen a healthcare provider yet, you may want to try one of these at-home remedies:
- Reduce your daily coffee intake to less than three cups, or cut out caffeine altogether.
- Reduce or cut out alcohol consumption altogether.
- Eat more foods high in potassium like broccoli, spinach, bananas, and avocado.
- Apply pressure to your lips using your fingers and a warm cloth.
Although harmless, lip twitching can be a sign that you have a more serious medical problem. If drinking less coffee or eating more broccoli doesn’t seem to help your symptom, it’s time to see your doctor. If a more serious disorder is causing your lip twitching, early detection is key. In such cases there are often treatment methods available to slow down the onset of more serious symptoms.