Definition

What is a facial tic disorder?

Facial tics are uncontrollable spasms in the face, such as rapid eye blinking or nose scrunching. They may also be called mimic spasms. Although facial tics are usually involuntary, they may be suppressed temporarily.

Facial tics usually don’t indicate a serious medical condition, and most children outgrow them within a few months.

How common is a facial tic disorder?

Tics most often occur in children, but may last into adulthood in some cases. Tics occur three to four times as often in boys as girls. Tics may affect as many as one-fourth of all children at some time. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of a facial tic disorder?

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.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes a facial tic disorder?

Facial tics are a symptom of several different disorders. The severity and frequency of the tics can help determine which disorder is causing them.

Transient Tic Disorder

Transient tic disorder is diagnosed when facial tics last for a short period of time. They may occur nearly every day for more than a month but less than a year. They generally resolve without any treatment. This disorder is most common in children and is believed to be a mild form of Tourette’s syndrome.

People with transient tic disorder tend to experience an overwhelming urge to make a certain movement or sound. Tics may include:

  • Blinking eyes
  • Flaring nostrils
  • Raising eyebrows
  • Opening the mouth
  • Clicking the tongue
  • Clearing the throat
  • Grunting

Transient tic disorder usually doesn’t require any treatment.

Chronic Motor Tic Disorder

Chronic motor tic disorder is less common than transient tic disorder, but more common than Tourette’s syndrome. To be diagnosed with chronic motor tic disorder, you must experience tics for more than a year and for more than three months at a time.

Excessive blinking, grimacing, and twitching are common tics associated with chronic motor tic disorder. Unlike transient tic disorder, these tics may occur during sleep.

Children who are diagnosed with chronic motor tic disorder between ages 6 and 8 typically don’t require treatment. At that point, the symptoms may be manageable and can even subside on their own.

People who are diagnosed with the disorder later in life may need treatment. The specific treatment will depend on the severity of the tics.

Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette’s syndrome, also known as Tourette’s disorder, typically begins in childhood, on average at age 7. Children with this disorder may experience spasms in the face, head, and arms. The tics can intensify and spread to other areas of the body as the disorder progresses. However, the tics usually become less severe in adulthood.

Tics associated with Tourette’s syndrome include:

  • Flapping arms
  • Sticking the tongue out
  • Shrugging shoulders
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Vocalizing of cuss words
  • Obscene gestures

To be diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, you must experience vocal tics in addition to physical tics. Vocal tics include excessive hiccupping, throat clearing, and yelling. Some people may also frequently use expletives or repeat words and phrases.

Tourette’s syndrome can usually be managed with behavioral treatment. Some cases may also require medication

Risk factors

What increases my risk for a facial tic disorder?

There are many risk factors for a facial tic disorder, such as:

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is a facial tic disorder diagnosed?

Your doctor can usually diagnose a facial tic disorder by discussing the symptoms with you. They may also refer you to a mental health professional who can assess your psychological status.

It’s important to rule out physical causes of facial tics. Your doctor may ask about other symptoms to decide whether you need further testing. They may order an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the electrical activity in your brain. This test can help determine whether a seizure disorder is causing your symptoms.

Your doctor might also want to perform an electromyography (EMG), a test that evaluates muscle or nerve problems. This is to check for conditions that cause muscle twitching.

How is a facial tic disorder treated?

Most facial tic disorders don’t require treatment. If your child develops facial tics, avoid drawing attention to them or scolding them for making involuntary movements or sounds. Help your child understand what tics are so they can explain them to their friends and classmates.

Treatment may be needed if the tics interfere with social interactions, schoolwork, or job performance. Treatment options can include:

  • Stress reduction programs
  • Psychotherapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Dopamine blocker medications
  • Medications to treat underlying conditions, such as ADHD and OCD
  • Botulinum toxin (botox) injections to temporarily paralyze facial muscles

Recent studies have shown that deep brain stimulation may help treat Tourette’s syndrome. Deep brain stimulation is a surgical procedure that places electrodes in the brain. Electrodes are small, flat metal discs with wires attached. They send electrical impulses through the brain so brain cells can communicate with each other.

This type of treatment can help relieve symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome. However, more research is needed to determine the best area of the brain to stimulate for improvement of Tourette’s syndrome symptoms.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage a facial tic disorder?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with a facial tic disorder:

Many cases cannot be prevented. Reducing stress may be helpful. Sometimes counseling can help your child learn how to cope with stress.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: November 3, 2017 | Last Modified: November 3, 2017

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