A facial tic is a repeated spasm, often involving the eyes and muscles of the face.
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.
Tics may involve repeated, uncontrolled spasm-like muscle movements, such as:
Repeated throat clearing or grunting may also be present.
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.
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.
Simple childhood tics should go away on their own over a period of months. Chronic tics may continue for a longer period of time.
In most cases, there are no complications.
Call for an appointment with your provider if tics:
Many cases cannot be prevented. Reducing stress may be helpful. Sometimes, counseling can help your child learn how to cope with stress.
Reviewed By: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.