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.
A number of different disorders can cause facial tics. They most
often occur in children, but they can affect adults as well. Tics are much more
common in boys than in girls.
Facial tics usually don’t indicate a serious medical condition, and
most children outgrow them within a few months.
Facial tics are a symptom of several different disorders. The
severity and frequency of the tics can help determine which disorder is causing
Transient Tic Disorder
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
Transient tic disorder usually doesn’t require any treatment.
Chronic Motor Tic Disorder
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.
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
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.
Several factors contribute to facial tic disorders. These factors
tend to increase the frequency and severity of tics.
Contributing factors include:
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.
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
- behavioral therapy
- dopamine blocker medications
- medications to treat underlying conditions, such
as ADHD and OCD
- botulinum toxin (Botox) injections to
temporarily paralyze facial muscles
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.