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
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.
Review Date 2/27/2016
Updated by: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.