Facial Tic Disorder: Causes, Diagnoses and Treatment

Facial Tic Disorder

What is a facial tic disorder?

Facial tic disorder occurs when the face jerks uncontrollably, such as rapid eye blinking or scrunching the nose. It is also known as mimic spasms. It is possible to temporarily suppress facial tics, although they are usually involuntary.

Facial tics are caused by a wide variety of disorders. Children are most likely to develop them, but adults can be affected as well. Typically, boys experience tics more frequently than girls.

Most children outgrow facial tics within a few months, and they aren’t indicative of a serious medical condition.

Read: Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior

What causes a facial tic disorder?

There are several conditions that can cause facial tics. It is possible to determine the cause of tics based on their severity and frequency.

Transient tic disorder

Whenever there is a short-term increase of facial tics, it is called transient tic disorder. Over the course of a month, but less than a year, they may occur nearly every day. Most people do not require treatment for them. Children are most likely to develop this disorder, which is similar to Tourette syndrome in a mild form.

Tic disorder sufferers tend to be constantly compelled to make certain sounds or movements. These may include:

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

Tic disorders do not require treatment in most cases.

Read: Stereotypic Movement Disorder

Chronic motor tic disorder

Transient tic disorder is much less common than chronic motor tic disorder. However, Tourette disorder is more common than chronic motor tic disorder. The duration and duration of tic episodes must be longer than a year as well as more than three months to warrant the diagnosis of chronic motor tic disorder.

Chronic motor tic disorder is characterized by excessive blinking, grimacing and twitching.

This type of tic may occur at night instead of during transient tic disorder.

Chronic motor tic disorder usually does not require treatment for children between 6 and 8 years of age. You may be able to deal with the symptoms at that point, and they may subside on their own.

However, later diagnoses may require treatment. This will depend on how severe the symptoms are.

Tourette syndrome

Childhood is the typical time when Tourette syndrome or Tourette disorder first appears. It usually occurs around age seven. Spasms can occur in the face, the head, and the arms of children with this disorder.

Tissues can get worse and spread to other parts of your body as the disorder gets worse. However, they usually get better as you get older.

Here are some tics you might see with Tourette syndrome:

  • Flapping arms
  • Sticking the tongue out
  • Shrugging shoulders
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Vocalizing of curse words
  • Obscene gestures

If you have physical tics and vocal tics, you’ve got Tourette syndrome. Yawning, hiccupping, and clearing your throat are vocal tics. Some people repeat words and phrases or use expletives a lot.

You can manage Tourette syndrome with treatment. Sometimes it requires medication too.

Related: Motor Disorders

Is there anything that resembles facial tics?

Facial spasms caused by other conditions may mimic facial tics. These include:

  • Hemifacial spasms, occurs when one side of the face twitches
  • Blepharospasms, This affects the eyelids
  • Facial dystonia, Uncontrolled movements of face muscles

Your doctor may suspect hemifacial spasms if your facial tics appear in adulthood.

What factors can cause facial tic disorders?

Multiple factors are responsible for facial tic disorders. Each of these causes tends to make tics more frequent and severe.

These factors include:

Read: Dystonia Disorder

Diagnoses of facial tic disorders

The symptoms of a facial tic disorder can be diagnosed by your doctor. The mental health professional may also refer you to a psychologist.

Make sure that there are no physical causes for your facial tics. Consult your doctor if you have other symptoms so you can decide what steps to take.

EEGs (electroencephalograms) can be used to measure the electrical activity of the brain. Your symptoms may be attributed to a seizure disorder based on the results of this test.

Electromyography (EMG) is also an important test for evaluating muscle and nerve problems. The goal is to determine if you have any conditions that cause your muscles to twitch.

What is the treatment for a facial tic disorder?

It’s usually not necessary to treat these disorders. Avoid drawing your child’s attention to involuntary movements or noises if he has facial tics. So that your child can explain his or her tics to their friends and classmates, teach your child what tics are.

Those who have tics that interfere with their social interactions, schoolwork, or job performance may benefit from treatment. Tics are not always eliminated by treatment options, but they can usually be reduced. The following treatments are available:

  • Stress reduction programs
  • Psychotherapy
  • Behavioral therapy, comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics (CBIT)
  • Dopamine blocker medications
  • There are several medications which are used as antipsychotics, such as haloperidol (Haldol), risperidone (Risperdal), aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Anticonvulsant topiramate (Topamax)
  • Alpha-agonists like clonidine and guanfacine
  • Antipsychotic drugs used to treat ADHD or OCD
  • An injection of botulinum toxin (Botox) paralyzes the muscles in the face

Deep brain stimulation has shown promise for treating Tourette syndrome in recent studies. Electrodes are implanted in the brain during deep brain stimulation surgery. Through the electrodes, electrical signals are sent through the brain to reestablish normal brain activity.

Treatment of this type is helpful for treating Tourette syndrome. Further research is needed to identify the most effective way to target the brain to improve symptoms associated with Tourette syndrome.

Some studies have also shown that cannabis-based medications may be effective for reducing tics. There is limited evidence supporting this claim. Pregnant or nursing women should not take cannabis-based medications. Children and adolescents should not take cannabis-based medications either.

Read: Frontotemporal Dementia


For severe cases of facial tics, like Tourette’s syndrome, there are surgical methods that might help.

Deep brain stimulation is one such method. Electrical currents can be delivered to specific parts of the brain by implanting electrodes, researchers believe, which could decrease tics by regulating brain waves.

Study findings suggest deep brain stimulation may be helpful for treating Tourette’s syndrome symptoms, although more research is still required to determine the best places in the brain to stimulate.

Natural remedies

Natural remedies for facial tics may also be recommended by doctors. These remedies will decrease stress in the person’s life in order to treat tics because stress appears to play a role in their occurrence and persistence.

Activities that relieve stress include:

  • Light exercises
  • Imaginative play
  • Yoga
  • Meditation

People looking to reduce stress and find relief should also try to get a full night’s sleep. Doctors may also recommend counseling.

Read: Mixed Dementia

Difference between facial tics and blepharospasm

“Facial tics” occur when people involuntarily move parts of their face, especially around their eyes and mouth corners. There is usually no sustained movement in these movements. Typically, they do not cause squeezing around the eyes as blepharospasm would.

Common facial tics include hemifacial spasms, in which the side of the face contracts very rapidly and abnormally. It can also be associated with facial weakness or Bell’s palsy (a temporary paralysis caused by damage to one of the two facial nerves). Movements are often induced by eating, talking, or whistling. When patients move the lower part of their faces, they experience symptoms in the upper part of their faces.

Involuntary movements of the upper face, tongue, pharynx, jaw, and neck are manifestations of blepharospasm. Usually, these movements are impossible to suppress due to their involuntary nature and inability to be controlled directly by the person.

It is difficult to distinguish between chronic motor tics and blepharospasm, as their appearances often appear similar. It is most likely that disagreements will arise when symptoms are subtle and physical examination findings are similar. It is sometimes helpful to take a history to determine the cause. It is known that botulinum toxin treatment is effective in treating hemifacial spasms and blepharospasms. There is a possibility that facial tics will also respond.

When to see a doctor

Tics often pass on their own as they are transient. Patients who experience tic symptoms that last over a year should consult their doctor.

Those who suffer from severe, persistent, or frequent tics should see their doctor so an accurate diagnosis can be made.

It is not always possible to prevent facial tics, but many do not require treatment and subside on their own.

Patients with persistent tics may benefit from treatments that can help them manage the tic. Individuals who learn stress-relieving techniques or see a therapist may also benefit.

The takeaway

Facial tics are not a sign of a serious medical condition, but they may need to be treated if they are disrupting your life. Consult your physician if you have concerns that you may suffer from a facial tic disorder.

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