Facial Tics

Help for facial tics, such as constant throat clearing and excessive eye blinking

Select a Topic

  1. What are Facial Tics?
  2. What Causes Facial Tics?
  3. Diagnosing Facial Tics
  4. Help for Facial Tics
  5. 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 include repetitive eye blinking, squinting, wrinkling of the nose, and twitches around the mouth.

Facial tics such as eye twitches are most common in children, although in some cases they can continue into adulthood. They generally occur on a regular basis and for most people are an unwanted occurrence. Facial tics in children affect about 25% of the population, impacting boys 3-4 times more than girls.

Unlike voluntary muscle movements, these spasms are very difficult to control. While some people can suppress them temporarily, similar to holding in a sneeze, doing so can make the person extremely uncomfortable. Most people feel a sense of relief after they let it out.

For some people, facial tics are short lived transient tics, and disappear within a matter of weeks or months. This is especially true for children, who may develop facial tics when stressed. For others, the spasms are a long-term problem which may last for years. When this is the case, there may be a diagnosis of chronic motor tic disorder.

Transient tics include:

  • Blinking eyes
  • Raising eyebrows
  • Clicking the tongue
  • Grunting
  • Flaring the nostrils
  • Opening mouth
  • Clearing the throat

There are several types of tic disorders:

  • Provisional tic disorder – the most common type. Occurs when spasms have been happening for less than a year.
  • Chronic tics – less common. Occurs when spasms have been happening for more than a year. May be motor or vocal, but not both.
  • Tourette syndrome – much less common. A person with Tourette syndrome experiences multiple motor tics and at least one vocal tic for more than a year.

Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome is a distinct medical condition involving both vocal and physical tics. Symptoms may include spasms in the head, face and arms. Tourette syndrome usually begins in childhood, on average at age 7.

Symptoms associated with Tourette syndrome include:

  • Vocalizing swear words
  • Yelling
  • Obscene gestures
  • Flapping arms
  • Socially inappropriate touching
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Sticking out the tongue
  • Excessive hiccupping
  • Throat clearing

Usually, Tourette syndrome is managed with behavioral treatment. Doctors may recommend medication in some cases.

Facial Tic Causes

The cause of involuntary facial spasms is generally unknown, although research suggests a genetic link. Other research points to a relationship with brain chemical abnormalities or deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium.

Various factors have been shown to trigger or worsen the condition. Tension, stress, fatigue, illness, recent head injury, excitement, and certain medications can all make symptoms worse. If you or your child experiences facial tics from medication, let your doctor know.

Diagnosing Facial Tics

Doctors generally make this diagnosis based on patient or parent report along with a physical examination. In rare cases, your health care professional may recommend an EEG to rule out seizures or movement conditions.

Help for Facial Tics

There are a variety of options for treating facial tics, including medications, psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and relaxation techniques.

With transient tics, the best option is generally no treatment. Making a child overly aware or concerned about the situation will simply make things worse, so in many cases the wait and see approach is best.

If persistent tics start to interfere with aspects of life, your doctor may recommend medication such as Risperidone to help manage the symptoms. While these medications may be effective, they can have a number of unwanted side effects.

Natural medicine such as Tic Tamer™ for Muscle Spasms & Jerking can help temporarily relieve symptoms of vocal, physical and nervous tics in kids and adults.

More Information on Facial Tics

Tips for concerned parents
  • Understand how the condition affects your child and make changes at home and school to best accommodate them.
  • Try not to draw too much attention to your child’s spasms and don’t make them overly concerned about them. Doing so will make your child feel more anxious and will 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 your child is not doing this on purpose. Don’t punish your child, and try not to show any frustration you may feel. Doing so may increase your child’s anxiety and cause more spasms.
  • Make sure your child is not having caffeine, found 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.
The content provided is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have a health condition, please consult a medical professional and do not use this information to self-diagnose or self-treat.
 
Reviewed by Master Herbalist, Mary Ellen Kosanke

References:

  1. “Kids and Tics: What’s “Normal” and When to See a Specialist.” Children’s MD. Accessed February 20, 2020. https://childrensmd.org/uncategorized/kids-tics-whats-normal-see-specialist/
  2. “Tic.” TeensHealth. Accessed February 20, 2020. https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/tics.html
  3. “Tic Disorders and Twitches.” WebMD. Accessed February 20, 2020. https://www.webmd.com/brain/tic-disorders-and_twitches#1
  4. “Facial tics.” Medline Plus. Accessed February 21, 2020. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001410.htm
  5. Johnson, Jon. “Everything You Need to Know About Facial Tics.” Medical News Today. Accessed February 21, 2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322174
  6. Chouinard, S. and Ford, B. “Adult Onset Tic Disorders.” BMJ Journals. Accessed February 21, 2020. https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/68/6/738
  7. Martel, Janelle. “What is a facial tic disorder?” Healthline. Accessed February 21, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/facial-tics