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transient tic disorder

Alternative Names
motor twitches, motor tics, vocal tics

Transient tic disorders are characterised by single or many motor tics. Tics are brief, rapid, repetitive movements often resembling nervous mannerisms.

What is going on in the body?
Tics are typically simple twitches of muscle. There is a huge range in severity. Most mild, transient tic disorders are never brought to the attention of a doctor.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
Signs and symptoms of tics depend on the type.

Motor tics can cause:
  • eye blinking
  • neck jerking
  • shoulder struggling
  • head banging
  • head turning
  • tongue protrusion
  • lip or tongue biting
  • nail biting
  • hair pulling
  • facial grimaces
Vocal tics can cause:
  • coughing
  • throat clearing
  • grunting
  • sniffing
  • snorting
  • hissing
  • clicking
  • barking
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Transient tic disorders are more common in children. Tics are made worse by stress and usually go away during sleep.

What can be done to prevent the condition?
There is no known prevention for tics.

How is the condition diagnosed?
The diagnosis of transient tic disorder is made when a person experiences the symptoms. The tic must occur every day for at least 4 weeks for the diagnosis to be made. Physical causes of tics should be ruled out.

What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Transient tics tend to disappear on their own over a period of months.

What are the risks to others?
Tics are not contagious, and pose no risk to others.

What are the treatments for the condition?
Transient tics usually don't require treatment. It is recommended that family members try to ignore the tics at first, because unwanted attention may make the tics worse. If tics cause problems in school or work, behavioural therapy may be used. Medication such as clonidine and phenothiazine may be effective in suppressing tics.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
Phenothiazine may cause slow rhythmic, automatic movements known as tardive dyskinesia. Clonidine and phenothiazine may cause drowsiness and a drop in blood pressure upon standing, called orthostatic hypotension.

What happens after treatment for the condition?
The tics usually disappear over a period of months.

How is the condition monitored?
The person affected or the person's family can monitor transient tics. A doctor should be notified if the tic becomes disruptive in the person's daily activities. Any other new or worsening symptoms should also be reported to the doctor.

Author: Tim Allen, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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