Facial Tics

What are facial tics?

Facial tics are brief repeated twitching of muscles in the face that you cannot control for more than short periods of time. Trying to stop them will usually make you feel anxious until you allow the tic to occur.

Tics often start between the ages of 7 to 9 but may start as early as age 3. They may cause embarrassment, but they often go away as children grow up.

What is the cause?

A number of things might cause tics, such as:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Pain in the face or teeth
  • Damage to a nerve in the face
  • Strep infection
  • Some stimulant medicines
  • Caffeine
  • Tumor
  • Stroke
  • A seizure disorder
  • A lack of the mineral magnesium in the diet
  • A chronic medical problem, such as Tourette syndrome or multiple sclerosis

What are the symptoms?

Some common facial tics include:

  • Blinking the eyes
  • Wrinkling the nose
  • Sticking out or biting the tongue
  • Facial grimaces

Between tics, you may have a feeling of relief until you feel the need to have another tic. Usually you will have fewer tics when you are relaxed. They usually stop during sleep and get worse with tension and emotional strain. If your symptoms are seriously interfering with your daily life, seek help from your healthcare provider or a mental health professional.

How are they diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You may have tests or scans to check for possible causes of the symptoms, such as a seizure disorder.

How are they treated?

Most tics are not harmful and get better on their own.

Usually you will have more tics when you are tense or stressed and fewer tics when you are asleep, relaxed, or focused on an absorbing task. The use of relaxation techniques or biofeedback may help relieve stress and reduce tics.

Tic disorders that don’t go away on their own are often treated with medicine. Behavioral therapies and Botox injections may also help. Depending on the cause, surgery may be done on facial nerves or muscles.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes.
  • Learn ways to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax. For example, take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, or take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
  • Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
  • Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-01-27
Last reviewed: 2014-01-12
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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