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What causes nervous tics in children?

My child keeps ticking his neck to the side. Then he'll stop. Then he'll start again in a few weeks. What is wrong with him?
Tics, which are repetitive meaningless motions of the body, such as twitching the neck or the eyes, are very common in childhood. Fortunately most tics in childhood are simple and not a major problem. For example, something called a transient tic disorder may affect up to 10% or more of child of school age. The tics may be more noticeable during times when the child is stressed or nervous and them may improve for a time. This type of tic does not usually need treatment, and the problem tends to get better as time goes by. Occasionally, tics may be part of a more serious medical disorder called Tourette's syndrome. This is a disorder that is characterized by tics including also vocal tics (gruntings and other vocalizations). Tourette's syndrome results in significant impairment in social functioning, something that does not occur with simple tics. It is more likely to be a chronic life long disorder and to require medication. If you feel like your child's tics are interfering with their social or scholastic life, then the first step would be to take them to see your pediatrician, who will be able to perform the initial evaluation and decide if further workup is needed.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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