A facial tic is an involuntary, uncontrolled spasm in the facial muscles. The tic is unwanted and generally occurs regularly enough to be a nuisance to the person who experiences it.
A person can hold in a tic temporarily, in a similar way to holding in a sneeze, but doing so often makes the person increasingly uncomfortable.
A few different disorders can cause facial tics, but most of the time facial tics do not indicate a severe medical condition.
According to a report in Pediatric Neurology, facial tics occur more commonly in children than adults, and boys seem to be much more likely to experience facial tics than girls. Most children’s facial tics fade after a few months.
What are facial tics?
It is possible to temporarily suppress a facial tic.
Facial tics are involuntary muscle movements that can happen anywhere in the face. However, they usually occur in the same place each time and happen frequently enough to bother the person. Severe tics can affect a person’s quality of life.
Common types of facial tics include:
rapid eye blinking or winking
flaring the nostrils
clicking the tongue
sucking the teeth
raising the eyebrows
opening and closing the mouth
scrunching the nose
As well as these muscular tics, some people may also experience vocal tics, such as clearing the throat or grunting.
A person may suppress a tic temporarily, but it will come out eventually.
Types of tic disorders
Different types of disorders can cause facial tics. The severity of the tic, as well as the presence of other symptoms, can often help a doctor identify the underlying condition.
Transient tic disorder
Transient tics are temporary. Transient tic disorder may cause a regular facial or vocal tic, but the tic typically lasts for under a year.
Transient tic disorder usually only causes tics while a person is awake. People rarely have tics while they are sleeping.
Transient tic disorder is responsible for the majority of causes of tics in children. They usually resolve without any treatment.
Chronic motor tic disorder
Chronic motor tic disorder is a more persistent tic disorder. For a doctor to diagnose a person with chronic motor tic disorder, they must have experienced tics for over a year, for periods of at least 3 months at a time.
Unlike transient tic disorder, chronic motor tic disorder causes tics that can also occur during sleep.
Chronic motor tic disorder can occur in both children and adults. Young children who have chronic motor tic disorder may not need treatment, as symptoms may be more manageable or subside on their own over time.
Adults who have the disorder may need medication or other treatment to control the tics.