What is a Tic Disorder?, Motor, Vocal, Myoclonic, Blepharospasm, Jerk, What, is, a, Tic, Disorder, National CPR Foundation
October 14, 2014 Disorders

Tic Disorders

It is not uncommon to occasionally experience involuntary tics, twitches or spasms. This on its own is not cause for concern, but if you are experiencing persistent tics, twitches and spasms, you may have a tic disorder. Tic disorders usually occur in the eyes or somewhere else on the face. It is important to understand the different kinds of tic disorders in order to understand what causes them and how they can be most effectively treated. The most common types of tic disorders are motor tic disorder, vocal tic disorder, myoclonic jerk disorder, and blepharospasm.

Motor and Vocal Tic Disorders

A motor tic disorder is characterized by sudden bodily movements occurring during normal behavior. These movements may repeat themselves several times, and the person making the movement has limited control to stop these movements from occurring. Examples of these movements are eye blinking, head jerking, nose twitching, or shoulder shrugging. Complex motor tics consist of one bodily movement combined with one or more other bodily movements, with the pattern repeating itself numerous times. A vocal tic disorder occurs when someone has the impulse to make a vocal sound or say a word, and although they can hold back that impulse, the longer they hold back the impulse, the more discomfort they will feel.

Some tic disorders can be both motor and vocal at the same time, such as transient tic disorder, which occurs in school age children for the duration of one month to less than a year. Chronic tic disorder, on the other hand, is either motor or vocal, but not both. Unlike transient tic disorder, chronic tic disorder lasts for a year or more.

A well-known vocal tic disorder is Tourette’s syndrome. Someone who has Tourette’s syndrome will have both motor and vocal tics, sometimes vocalizing words they didn’t intend to speak. They may experience head jerking, making involuntary facial expressions, barking or grunting, shouting, or swearing. Tourette’s syndrome is a severe tic disorder and can be very embarrassing for both the sufferers and those around them.

Myoclonic Jerk Disorder and Blepharospasm

Myoclonic jerk disorder and blepharospasm, while broadly classified under the group of tic disorders, are more accurately referred to as twitches. Unlike tics, these twitching disorders consist of bodily movements that only happen once in a given incident without repeating themselves. Myoclonic jerk disorder is characterized by muscle spasms that cause a part of the body to jerk into motion suddenly. Blepharospasm occurs when the muscles of the eyelids twitch uncontrollably. Blepharospasm may also extend to twitching of the muscles of the eyebrows, mouth or neck in rare cases.

Causes of Tic Disorders and Treatment

Some causes of tic disorders include stress, lack of sleep, eye dryness, too much caffeine, conditions in which your eyes are exposed to harsh light, or genetics. Some tic disorders go away on their own, while others require treatment such as behavioral therapy or medication. Anyone suffering from a tic disorder should talk to their doctor to plan the best approach to treatment.

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