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:
- Eye blinking
- Mouth twitching
- Nose wrinkling
Repeated throat clearing or grunting may also be present.
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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call for an appointment with your provider if tics:
- Affect many muscle groups
- Are persistent
- Are severe
Many cases cannot be prevented. Reducing stress may be helpful. Sometimes, counseling can help your child learn how to cope with stress.
Tic - facial; Mimic spasm
Leegwater-Kim J. Tic disorders. In: Srinivasan J, Chaves CJ, Scott BJ, Small JE, eds. Netter's neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 36.
Ryan CA, DeMaso DR, Walter HJ. Motor disorders and habits. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 37.
Tochen L, Singer HS. Tics and Tourette syndrome. In: Swaiman KF, Ashwal S, Ferriero DM, et al, eds. Swaiman's Pediatric Neurology: Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 98.
Review Date 2/4/2020
Updated by: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, FAAN, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. 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.