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Definition:

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



Alternative Names:

Tic - facial; Mimic spasm



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

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.

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

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

Certain medications, such as methylphenidate (used to treat hyperactivity in children), were previously thought to cause tics in children already prone to the disorder. However, recent studies do not support this idea, and suggest that these medications can be used in children with tics who also have attention-deficit disorder (which often occurs in the same group of children).

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. Gilles de la Tourette syndrome is a separate condition in which tics are a major symptom.



Symptoms:
  • Repeated, uncontrolled spasm-like muscle movements, such as:
    • Eye blinking
    • Grimacing
    • Mouth twitching
    • Nose wrinkling
    • Squinting
  • Repeated throat clearing or grunting


Signs 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 rule out seizures .



Treatment:

Transient 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 reduce the frequency of tics, and help them go away more quickly.

If tics are disabling, medications such as risperdal (Risperidone) may help control them.



Support Groups:



Expectations (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.



Complications:

In most cases, there are no complications.



Calling your health care provider:

Call for an appointment with your health care 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.




Review Date: 2/13/2008
Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Departments of Anatomy & Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
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