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- What are Facial Tics?
- What Causes Facial Tics?
- Diagnosing Facial Tics
- Help for Facial Tics
- More Information on Facial Tics
What are Facial Tics?
Facial tics are rapid and uncontrollable movements or spasms often involving the muscles of the eyes or face. The most common types of involuntary facial tics include repetitive eye blinking, squinting, wrinkling of the nose, and twitches around the mouth.
As with other tics, facial tics such as eye tics or eye twitches are most common in children, however, in some cases they can continue into adulthood. Facial tics generally occur on a regular basis and for most people, they are an unwanted occurrence.
Unlike voluntary muscle movements, tics are very difficult to control, and while some people manage to suppress their facial tics for a short time, it seldom lasts long. In fact, suppressing tics can be described as trying to suppress a sneeze that really wants to come out, and once released; most people feel a sense of relief afterwards.
For some people, facial tics are transient, and disappear within a matter of weeks or months. This is especially true for children, who develop tics during periods of intense stress. For others, facial tics are a long-term problem which may last for years. When this is the case, a diagnosis of chronic motor tic disorder is often made. When tics occur together with vocal tics, then a diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome may be considered.
What Causes Facial Tics?
The cause of facial tics is generally unknown, although research has suggested that it may be genetic and therefore run in families. Other research has suggested that the tics are related to brain chemical abnormalities or deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals such as magnesium.
Various factors have also been shown to trigger or worsen existing tic conditions and these include tension, stress, fatigue, illness, recent head injury, excitement, and certain medications. In other cases, tics are a symptom of other conditions such as Tourette’s syndrome.
Diagnosing Facial Tics
Facial tics are generally diagnosed upon patient/parent report and a physical examination. In very rare cases when the tics are atypical, your doctor may recommend an EEG to rule out seizures or movement conditions.
Help for Facial Tics
There are a variety of treatment options for treating facial tics and these include prescription medications, psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques.
When tics are transient, no treatment is generally the best option. Making a child overly aware or concerned about the tics will simply make the situation worse, so in many cases the wait and see approach is the best option.
When facial tics become disabling, or start to interfere with aspects of life, then your doctor may recommend medication such as Risperidone to help manage the tics. While these medications may be effective, they do have a number of unwanted side-effects.
More Information on Facial Tics
Tips for concerned parents
- Understand how the tics affect your child and make changes at home and school to best accommodate them.
- Try not to draw too much attention to your child’s tics and don’t make them overly concerned about them. Doing so will make your child feel more anxious and will more than likely worsen the situation.
- Keep a record of your child’s tics, (when they get worse and the events that surround them). This may help identify triggers. Be careful not to cause your child more stress – approach this in a way that makes your child feel secure.
- Realize tics are not done on purpose. Although tics may frustrate you, do not punish your child for having tics, and try not to show any frustration you may feel. Doing so may increase your child’s anxiety and cause more tics.
- Make sure your child is not having caffeine which is present in sodas, coffee, tea and chocolate.
- Teach your child how to relax and de-stress. Try teaching your child deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques.
- Encourage regular exercise. Sports and outdoor games are great ways to instill a love of exercise which will ultimately reduce stress levels.
- Ensure that your child is eating enough magnesium. Magnesium rich foods include green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, as well as beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.