Tics are sudden, quick movements or sounds that are often repeated. Tics can affect any part of the body including the arms, legs, shoulders and face. Depending on where the tics occur, they are called either "simple" (affecting one muscle group) or "complex" (affecting multiple muscle groups).
Generally, tics are compulsive (the person feels like they have to tic), but the urge to tic can be suppressed for a variable length of time. Vocal tics can be noises, throat clearing, even blurting out whole words or even sentences. The combination of complex motor tics and vocalizations is called Tourette's syndrome.
Causes of Tic Disorders
The cause of tics is unknown.
Incidence of Tic Disorders
- Tics usually start in childhood
- About 4 to 5 percent of all school age children develop tics
- Tic disorders tend to run in families
- As people age, tics level off in occurrence or fade away
- Tics can be associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorders
Signs & Symptoms
The range of tics that patients develop is extremely diverse. Some people with tic disorders experience sensory symptoms before the onset of motor or vocal tics. These feelings may include sensations of pressure, tickling, warmth, cold, pain or other feelings, followed by the uncontrollable need to perform the tic. Tics can vary in type, frequency and severity over time. They may worsen during periods of high stress and anxiety, fatigue, illness, recent head injury or excitement. They can even occur during sleep. People may develop different tics over time. For many people with Tourette's Syndrome, the symptoms are at their worst during the teenage years and sometimes improve during the transition to adulthood.
Types of tics include:
- Eye blinking
- Obscene gestures
- Sticking out the tongue
- Shaking the head
- Making certain sounds, such as throat clearing or yelling
- Repeating certain words