Nose twitching falls under the category of “facial twitches” and, in addition to being quite annoying, some people might even be embarrassed of it. Embarrassing or not, we don’t give much credit or pay much attention to these twitches, but they can indicate a much more critical condition.
But there is no need to be scared just yet; this article will give you a better understanding of why and how your nose is twitching, what you should do about it and whether or not you should visit a doctor.
Before we get straight to the condition itself, I’d like to take a moment of your time and talk a little about the anatomy of our nose.
Nose Anatomy – Muscles and Nerves
As you already know, the nose is an organ through which we draw breath; it’s at the beginning of our respiratory system alongside our mouth.
We don’t have the time to go much more in-depth, so today we will only be talking about the muscles and nerves that are responsible and related to nose twitching. It is, after all, a contraction of these muscles that presents itself in the form of an involuntary twitch.
The movement of our nose is controlled by some different muscles (all part of a superficial musculoaponeurotic system – a system comprised of the muscles of the face), divided into four main groups:
- The dilator muscle group – there are two muscles in this group: the dilator nasi anterior muscle, and the dilator nasi posterior muscle (the front and the back nasal muscles). These muscles are responsible for expanding the nostrils.
- The compressor muscle group – here we have transverse nasalis muscle, a muscle we use to “close off” our nostrils, when we are under water for example
- The depressor muscle group – this group of muscles includes depressor septi nasi muscle and the alar nasalis muscle. These muscles also control our nostrils, and depressor septi nasi can also affect the dropping of the tip of the nose
- The elevator muscle group – this group is of particular interest for us today. It is made up of two muscles levator labii superioris alaeque nasi muscle and the procerus muscle. The first muscle is responsible for moving the “wings” of the nose and the second one is a pyramidal shaped muscle located between the eyebrows and descending to the upper section of our nose
Of course, these muscles are controlled by a nerve – Cranial nerve VII to be exact, commonly called nervus facialis. Now, a twitching happens when there is a problem with the electrical impulses this nerve is carrying out to these muscles we’ve listed above.
What Is A Nose Twitch?
Tics or twitches are repeated short lasting movements, they hit suddenly and often without any rhythm, they cannot be suppressed or controlled. The lack of control is what scares people the most, and this is why people are embarrassed to go out when the twitching appears.
Nose twitching is relatively rare among the general population; people are much more likely to experience twitches of the thumb or your eyelids.
But they do happen, and in the following paragraphs, we are going to explain why!
Why Does Your Nose Keep Twitching – Causes
Pinpointing the exact cause of a muscle twitch can sometimes be difficult because it may present itself as a symptom most people notice during an allergic disease. This is also why most people ignore nose twitches at first, but it they persist for a longer period (several days), they will quickly get on your radar.
In most cases, this twitching will be no cause for concern as it can be a result of drinking too much coffee, not getting enough sleep; but it can also point to a serious disease such as Tourette syndrome or even a stroke.
Unfortunately, anxiety has almost become a norm for the society we live in; most adults experience it on a daily basis. BUT, we need to draw a line between this standard, daily anxiety (before taking a test, meeting someone new, or doing a previously unknown task) and an anxiety disorder that affects your life in a profound way and is classified as a mental illness.
When talking about anxiety, we can list some different symptoms such as:
- Feelings of panic and fear
- Poor sleeping
- Shortness of breath and elevated heart rate
- Dry mouth
But, there are also the symptoms we are most interested in today, and these are:
- Rubbing your nose
- Nose bleedings and
- A tingling sensation around the area of your nose
Anxiety affects people differently, and people respond differently to stress. Some people rub their nose to such an extent it causes pain, sneezing, leading up to nose twitching.
Anxiety induced nose twitches will go away if you deal with your anxiety, but this is, of course, easier said than done.
Traditional medicine treats anxiety with medication, psychotherapy, and overall diet and lifestyle changes.
Facial Tic Disorders
This is a disorder affecting kids, but it is known to present itself with adults as well. As the name suggests, there are a few different types of these diseases, and medical professionals divided them into three distinct groups.
This division was based on the following factors: how long does the condition last, how severe it is, when it appeared first, what types of tics are present (vocal, motor or both).
Here are these three disorders:
This is a neuroplastic disorder “forcing” people to make sudden moves and reactions they cannot control. One of the telltale signs of this condition is that it always presents itself with at least two motor and one vocal tic.
The problem with Tourette’s syndrome is that the modern medicine is not sure what is causing it. The main suspect is Basal Ganglia – an area in our body responsible for voluntary movement(source: Boundless).
This bundle of nerves and chemical networks is incredibly complex, so scientist still hasn’t been able to pinpoint what exactly is going on here, but we do know that corruption in this system is what’s causing Tourette. The most recent studies show that there are currently around 300,000 Americans suffering from full Tourette’s syndrome. The syndrome is inherited and occurs four times more in men population.
The first symptoms begin as early as the age of 6 and as late as 17, but they are chronic in nature and will last for life. When talking about symptoms, they are also roughly divided into two groups – simple and complex.
Simple symptoms include eye blinking, face grimaces, and sounds such as clearing a throat or sniffing. More complex ones involve larger groups of muscles, where complex body movements (such as jumping, hopping, reaching, etc.) are impaired.
Complex symptoms also include vocal symptoms (present in 10-15% of all cases) and are labelled as Coprolalia and Echolalia. Coprolalia is characterised by saying inappropriate words every couple of minutes, and echolalia is a condition where patient repeats the words from others.
Prescribing some general treatment is difficult (even impossible) because the disease itself manifests differently in different people. This is why choosing the right course of therapy will require a lot of time and patience, as well as expertise.
But, Tourette is commonly treated with:
- Medication – Fluphenazine, Haloperidol, and Pimozide
- Deep brain stimulation
- Speech therapy and
- Behavioral therapy
Chronic tic disorder
Chronic tic disorder will appear at an early age (4-5) and in the ages between 6 and 9. It does require treatment, but there are instances where the disease went away on its own. If it does not go away and is not addressed appropriately, it will start to get progressively worse after the child’s 10th birthday.
The good news about this condition is that is not as common as Tourette’s, and it is diagnosed only after the patient has been suffering from tics for at least one full year.
Typical characteristics of this condition are face grimaces, flaring nostrils, constant blinking, and producing sounds that reminisce clearing your throat or grunting. The situation will also depend on the general health of the patient, so symptoms might be exacerbated if a person is under a lot of stress, is fatigued or has a fever.
Treatment will largely depend on the frequency of the tics. In those cases where the rate is high, the doctor might describe medication to get those tics under control. But, this remedy might come with some unwanted side effects such as weakening of motor and mental capacities. The disease is also treated using behavioural and speech therapy.
Transient tic disorder
Sadly, this disease is more common in children and will be characterised by one or more motor tics and one or more vocal tics (humming or yelling). This disease is most commonly caused by a genetic mutation or mental disorders such as depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Another interesting characteristic of this disease is that it manifests at night as well.
- The condition must appear before the age of 16 if its starts later it is not Transient tic disorder
- Tic must occur at least 12 months in a row
- Huntington disease has almost the same symptoms like TTD, so the doctors must rule out Huntington disease at first if they want to diagnose TTD
To observers, these tics will manifest as nervous behaviour, and it the person is under a lot of stress or put in a challenging situation the symptoms might get worse.
As you can see, it is somewhat difficult to differentiate these conditions, but the main difference between Transient and Chronic disorder is that this one does not occur during sleep.
This may sound counterintuitive, but the doctor might advise the family to ignore these tics at the beginning as the attention might make matters worse.
The good news about this condition is that it will most likely go away on its own! But, even if it doesn’t, it can be addressed in cognitive behaviour therapy. This therapy will teach the patient how to overcome fear, how to control their emotions and thoughts, and generally, strengthen their young minds.
Potentially Life Threatening Situation
At the beginning of the article, we mentioned some more severe conditions that may be manifested through nose twitching, but we didn’t mention they can also be life-threatening.
One of these conditions is a brain tumor. One of the symptoms of a brain tumor is an uncomfortable, uncontrollable twitching of the facial muscles.
Twitching of the muscles around the nose can also be one of the early signs of a stroke. This is why we advise talking to your doctor if you notice twitching does not go away (many people disregard or ignore it altogether and don’t even mention it to their doctors).
Most people do not maintain a healthy diet through their lives. Things might get from bad to worse when they decide they have to lose weight and cut certain foods from their diet. This can lead to the lack of magnesium and potassium which may result in or cause muscle tics and twitching.
Luckily for us, this problem is easy to solve – magnesium deficiency can be “treated” with leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, lettuce, etc.
As for potassium, my favourite potassium rich food is a banana, but many other groceries contain a lot of potassium such as watermelon, sweet potato, or a tomato sauce.
Damaged nervous system
Sometimes damaged nerves can make our nose twitch. Most of these disorders interfere with our body’s natural functions, and the muscles become moving uncontrollably. Here are some of the diseases that can damage our nervous system:
- Parkinson’s disease – a nervous system disorder where, after a while, the muscles become weaker and start shaking uncontrollably
- Multiple sclerosis – a disease where a person becomes weak and loses coordination. The main reason for this weakness is irreversible damage to the brain and the spinal cord
- Muscular dystrophy– the body lose much of its muscular tissue which leads to weakness and, after a while, tics
- Myatrophic lateral sclerosis(ASL)
Other causes those are benign and include the lack of sleep, too much caffeine, and exercise injuries where the capillaries are damaged.
– Image 1 source: www.Springer.com