What Are Tic Disorders?

Tic disorders are brief, rapid movements and sounds that are usually repetitive and involuntary that can affect any part of the body. Their cause is unknown although they may be hereditary. Depending on the area of the body, tics are defined as simple (affecting one group of muscles) or complex (affecting multiple muscle groups). Tic disorders affect 4 to 5 percent of school-age children.

Vocal tics can be noises, throat clearing or utterances of whole words or even sentences. The combination of complex motor tics and vocalizations is Tourette syndrome. Tics can be associated with behavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive traits.

Tics usually start in childhood and either level off or subside by young adulthood. However, some patients continue to have symptoms throughout their lives. Tics can become more intense after a relatively calm period.

Treatment of tic disorders depends on the degree of movement-related disability. Not all patients require therapy. Therapies may include medication, behavioral therapy, surgery or deep brain stimulation surgery (DBS).

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