Facial tics

  • Definition
    • A facial tic is a repeated spasm, often involving the eyes and muscles of the face.

  • Alternative Names
    • Tic - facial; Mimic spasm

  • Causes
    • Tics most often occur in children, but may last into adulthood. Tics occur 3 to 4 times as often in boys as girls. Tics may affect as many as one quarter of all children at some time.

      The cause of tics is unknown, but stress appears to make tics worse.

      Short-lived tics (transient tic disorder) are common in childhood.

      A chronic motor tic disorder also exists. It may last for years. This form is very rare compared to the common short-lived childhood tic. Tourette syndrome is a separate condition in which tics are a major symptom.

  • Symptoms
    • Tics may involve repeated, uncontrolled spasm-like muscle movements, such as:

      • Eye blinking
      • Grimacing
      • Mouth twitching
      • Nose wrinkling
      • Squinting

      Repeated throat clearing or grunting may also be present.

  • Exams and Tests
    • The health care provider will usually diagnose a tic during a physical examination. No special tests are needed. In rare cases, an EEG may be done to look for seizures, which can be the source of tics.

  • Treatment
    • Short-lived childhood tics are not treated. Calling the child's attention to a tic may make it worse or cause it to continue. A non-stressful environment can make tics occur less often, and help them go away more quickly. Stress reduction programs may also be helpful.

      If tics severely affect a person's life, medicines may help control them.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)
    • Simple childhood tics should go away on their own over a period of months. Chronic tics may continue for a longer period of time.

  • Possible Complications
    • In most cases, there are no complications.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Call for an appointment with your provider if tics:

      • Affect many muscle groups
      • Are persistent
      • Are severe
  • Prevention
    • Many cases cannot be prevented. Reducing stress may be helpful. Sometimes counseling can help your child learn how to cope with stress.

  • References
    • Ryan CA, Trieu ML, DeMaso DR, Walter HR. Motor disorders and habits. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 139.

      Singer HS. Tics and Tourette's syndrome. In: Swaiman K, Ashwal S, Ferriero DM, Ferriero D, eds. Swaiman's Pediatric Neurology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2012:chap 70.