Motor tics and Tourette's Syndrome

Pediatrician Wendy Mitchell, MD Neurology, shares advice for parents on how to differentiate between normal motor tics in children and Tourette's syndrome
The Differences Between Motor Tics In Children And Tourette's Syndrome
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Motor tics and Tourette's Syndrome

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Motor tics are very, very common in childhood. Particularly, facial tics. So, the child who suddenly has an outburst of blinking a hundred times a minute, or who has facial twitching. As long as they only have one kind of tic at a time, usually, it's going to go away. One day, you will wake up and realize that you haven't seen it for a day or two. You don't know where it went. They may get another tic. Motor tics are fairly common, especially in around the school aged kids. The child you worry about is the child who is accumulating more and more tics. Tourette's Syndrome, by definition, is chronic motor tics for more than six months, and vocal tics at all. Vocal tics can be, and mostly is, things like snorting, repeated throat clearing, humming, funny little "uh-uh" types of sounds. The stereotypic idea of Tourette's is someone who is yelling obscenities, is actually extremely rare. Tourette's is one end of the spectrum of tic disorders. It's the rare end of the spectrum -- The common end of the spectrum is, what we call, simple motor tics of childhood. One tic at a time. They come and go. Maybe they get another tic, but it's not that they get one, and then two, and then three. Maybe one goes away, but another comes back and also snorting. That's Tourette's.

Pediatrician Wendy Mitchell, MD Neurology, shares advice for parents on how to differentiate between normal motor tics in children and Tourette's syndrome

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Wendy Mitchell, MD

Pediatrician, Neurology, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Wendy Mitchell, MD, is Professor of Clinical Neurology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California. She is acting Division Head of Neurology at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, where she has practiced for over 30 years. She is a native of Los Angeles. Her current research interests include cognitive and behavioral aspects of childhood epilepsy, clinical research in anticonvulsants, and a rare immune-mediated syndrome, opsoclonus-myoclonus (or dancing eyes syndrome). In her free time she enjoys scuba diving and yoga.

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