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Main -> General Questions about Benign Fasciculation Syndrome

Question
  • What does BFS stand for?
  • Is BFS related to ALS?
  • Is there a cure for BFS?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • What are fasciculations?
  • What should I do if I am experiencing twitching or other symptoms of BFS?
  • I have been diagnosed with BFS, what now?
  • Is it possible for BFS to progress into ALS?
  • What tests can I expect my doctor to perform if he suspects I have BFS?
  • How long does BFS last?
  • Is BFS a real disorder? Isn't this just stress /anxiety related, or is it all in my head?
  • What causes BFS?

  • Answer
  • What does BFS stand for?

    Benign Fasciculation Syndrome

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  • Is BFS related to ALS?

    No, although exhibiting some of the same symptoms, ALS and BFS are two distinctly separate illnesses.

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  • Is there a cure for BFS?

    Currently, there is no known cure for BFS

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  • What are the symptoms?

    This condition represents a hyperexcitability of the neuromuscular system.

    Common symptoms of BFS are frequent muscle twitches (fasciculations or fascics), generalized fatigue, "pins and needles" sensations, migrating numbness, muscle cramping and/or spasms in the affected areas (usually the feet and calves), muscle aches and stiffness exercise intolerance, headaches, and itchiness.

    Clinically some patients have mild increases in creatine kinase. Muscle biopsy may show mild neurogenic changes. Electrodiagnostic studies show peripheral nerve hyperexcitability.

    Often the symptoms will get worse at night, or during periods of sickness or viral infections, stress, or overexertion.

    Many people experiencing these symptoms fear they may have ALS or MS. A simple clinical rule is that fasciculations in relaxed muscle are never indicative or motor system disease unless there is an associated weakness, atrophy, or reflex change.

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  • What are fasciculations?

    Fasciculations, or fascics are localized twitches of the muscle fibers.

    From the On-Line Medical Dictionary:

    • A small local contraction of muscles, visible through the skin, representing a spontaneous discharge of a number of fibres innervated by a single motor nerve filament.

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  • What should I do if I am experiencing twitching or other symptoms of BFS?

    You should immediately consult with your General Practitioner (Family Doctor) or with a Neurologist.

    While the symptoms are often benign in nature, they can also be indicators of a more serious illness such as ALS or MS. You should be tested as soon as possible.

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  • I have been diagnosed with BFS, what now?

    While there are currently no known cures for BFS, and management of BFS symptoms is a subject for some debate, you should keep in contact with your Neurologist to keep abreast of any progress in the treatment of BFS.

    Also, if you experience any change in the symptoms that you are experiencing, you should immediately make your Neurologist aware of these changes as they may be indicative of other underlying symptoms.

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  • Is it possible for BFS to progress into ALS?

    No. This is a common worry for those who have been diagnosed with BFS.

    The number of people developing ALS after having been diagnosed with BFS is statistically the same as for the General Population.

    As long as you have been diagnosed by a qualified Neurologist, you should have no concerns. If fact, many people suffering with BFS have reported that their symptoms increase with stress and worrying, so you are probably making your symptoms worse than they need to be by worrying about your diagnosis.

    Fasciculations themselves can be present for years and not associated with a malignant condition.

    However, if you start to develop new symptoms (such as weakness), and a change is your symptoms, see a Neurologist as soon as possible.

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  • What tests can I expect my doctor to perform if he suspects I have BFS?

    Typically, the doctor will test your reflexes, have you perform some simple strength tests, and administer an EMG. In some cases, blood tests may be ordered or a muscle tissue biopsy will be taken.

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  • How long does BFS last?

    The symptoms can range in length from months to many years. In some cases, the symptoms never completely cease.

    Typically the symptoms with come and go, with periods of increased twitching, separated by periods of remission where the symptoms are milder, but still present.

    In some cases the periods of remission will get longer over time, with the active periods experiencing less intense symptoms.

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  • Is BFS a real disorder? Isn't this just stress /anxiety related, or is it all in my head?

    BFS is a confirmed, diagnosable disorder. If fact, a large percentage of the people diagnosed with BFS are in the medical profession (in a study by the Mayo Clinic of 121 people diagnosed with BFS, 40 were healthcare workers).

    Times of increased stress or anxiety may cause similar symptoms (i.e. twitching of the eyelid), that will go away when the stress causing antagonist is removed, however this is a common effect of stress and is not typically BFS.

    Often, those who are suffering from BFS will find that their symptoms get worse during the time when they are experiencing increased levels of stress or anxiety. It has been suggested that stress partially weakens or disables the immune system, therefore allowing latent disorders or sicknesses to grow in severity. (See: What causes BFS)

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  • What causes BFS?

    Doctors and scientists continue to debate the root cause and even the mechanism of BFS.

    The most prominent theory is that BFS is an auto-immune response to a viral infection. Many suffers of BFS have noted that that onset of their symptoms occurred just after a viral illness or infection, such as the flu. Also, many experience an increase in their symptoms during times of illness.

    The anatomic site of origin for muscle fasciculations and cramps has been debated for many years. Many authors have argued for a central origin of the abnormal discharges in the anterior horn cells. However some evidence favors a very distal origin in the intramuscular motor nerve terminals. Some researchers have found degeneration and regeneration of motor nerve terminals.

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