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Chronic motor tic disorder

Chronic motor tic disorder involves quick, uncontrollable movements or vocal outbursts (but not both).

  • Alternative Names

    Chronic vocal tic disorder; Tic - chronic motor tic disorder

  • Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    About 1 to 2% of the population has chronic motor tic disorder. The condition is more common than Tourette syndrome. However, it is not as common as transient tic disorder.

    All types of chronic tics are believed to be forms of Tourette syndrome.

  • Symptoms
    • Excessive blinking
    • Grimaces of the face
    • Quick movements of the arms, legs, or other areas
    • Sounds (grunts, throat clearing, contractions of the abdomen or diaphragm)

    People can hold off these symptoms for a short period of time, but they feel a sense of relief when they carry out these movements.

    Tics may continue during all stages of sleep. They may get worse with:

    • Excitement
    • Fatigue
    • Heat
    • Stress
  • Signs and tests

    The doctor can usually diagnose a tic during a physical examination. Tests are generally not needed.

    To be diagnosed with the disorder:

    • You must have had the tics nearly every day for more than a year
    • You have not had a tic-free period longer than 3 months
  • Treatment

    Treatment depends on how bad the tics are and how the condition affects you. Medicines and psychotherapy are used only when the tics have a major impact on daily activities, such as school and job performance.

    Drugs used to treat tics include dopamine blockers, such as pimozide and risperidone. However, these drugs are not always successful and can cause side effects.

    In recent years, brain stimulation using permanently implanted electrodes in the brain has shown promising results.

  • Expectations (prognosis)

    Children who develop this disorder between ages 6 and 8 do very well. Symptoms may last 4 to 6 years, and then stop without treatment in early adolescence.

    When the disorder begins in older children and continues into the 20s, it may become a life-long condition.

  • Complications

    There are usually no complications.

  • Calling your health care provider

    There is usually no need to see the health care provider for a tic unless it is severe or disrupts your life.

    If you cannot tell whether your movements are a tic or something more serious (such as a seizure), call your health care provider.

Review Date: 2/13/2008

Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Departments of Anatomy & Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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