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Tics

Overview

Affecting nearly 20% of children, tics are involuntary motor movements or vocalizations that typically set by the age of 18, with the average being age 7. Symptoms are normally at their worst between the ages of 10 and 12 and are often confused with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).

  • Types

    • Persistent (chronic) tics. Tics that start before age 18, are not associated with external factors and have symptoms that present multiple times each day for a year or longer. Persistent tics can typically include either vocal or motor tics, but not both types.
    • Provisional tic disorder. Tics that began before age 18 (and within the past 12 months that are accompanied by one or more motor or vocal tic). Provisional tic disorder is not related to external factors such as medical conditions. medications or drug use.
    • Tourette’s syndrome 
  • Symptoms

    • Involuntary rapid movements, often in the face or shoulder
    • Involuntary vocalizations that may or may not contain decipherable words
    • Symptoms that come in clusters and may not present for months at a time
    • Worsened symptoms when under stress
  • Prevention

    Currently, there is no known way to prevent tics from developing.

  • Risk Factors

    • Being male
    • Feeling anxious, tired or excited
    • Having family members with tics
  • Diagnosis

    • Medical history. The physician will review the patient’s medical history and symptoms. 
    • Blood work. To rule out other medical causes, the physician may perform blood work to look for abnormalities that could be causing the tics.
    • Imaging studies. Imaging tests, such as MRI and CT scans, may be performed to rule out other health conditions or abnormalities that could be causing the tics.
  • Treatment

    When the condition doesn’t interfere with daily life, no treatment is needed.

    • Medication may be prescribed if tics make it difficult to perform daily activities.
    • Behavioral therapy can help the individual gain some level of control over tics, particularly when tics are complicated by anxiety disorder or obsessive thoughts.
  • Follow-up Care

    As there is no cure for tics, lifelong management is required. Cases that initially need no treatment may worsen and require medication or behavioral therapy over time.