An episode of severe tics can indeed look like a seizure, but the two aren’t related. That being said, there can be a link between Tourette Syndrome and an increased risk of epilepsy.
Tourette Syndrome has been linked to a higher risk of epilepsy. Although Tourette itself doesn’t cause seizures, there have been reports of very forceful and repetitive tics leading to seizures. Seizures can also result in tics.
I wanted to look into this link. I don’t have epilepsy- although my sister does- and anyone looking for advice here may find the following information useful.
A tic-attack can look like a seizure
It is easy for an onlooker to assume severe tics are a seizure. I personally don’t have major tic-attacks, but I have seen how severe Tourette Syndrome can be for others.
A tic-attack is a sudden wave of sensory urges or internal pressure to carry out numerous tics at once.
Think of it like a skin reaction causing you to itch everywhere. It is hard, if not impossible to resist the itching, the only option for relief is to act upon it.
Tic-attacks are multiple tics at once, the only way to relieve the pressure is to carry out the tics.
Below is a YouTube video from a user named Jade O’Connell. Viewer discretion is advised for anyone with tics.
This footage was uploaded to demonstrate what a tic-attack can look like and is of a distressing nature.
Severe tics can cause seizures on very rare occasions
It has been documented that very aggressive, forceful tics can cause injuries that lead to seizures, particularly in the head or neck region.
I posted about neck-cracking tics and how this area can be sensitive to sudden movements.
One young man had a stroke after simply stretching his neck. I have also read about a mother calling an ambulance after her son had a seizure from aggressive head and neck tics.
Although these are rare, it is important to see a specialist for severe tics to risk injury or damage.
Myoclonic seizures can look like tics
I have learned that a myoclonic seizure is a sudden contraction of the muscles, leading to twitches and sudden movements. These can be mistaken for a tics.
These seizures happen whilst conscious, similar to how people with Tourette carry out tics when awake. This similarity can cause confusion for those uneducated on either condition.
Over at healthline, they state that some of the causes are head injury, stroke and lack of oxygen to the brain.
These causes can be a result of aggressive tics.
A symptom healthline describe for this kind of seizure is a ‘sensation of electric shock‘. I spoke about feeling this sensation in my neck-cracking tics post, could this be such a seizure?
I am interested to find out the link between Tourette and myoclonic seizures, as I can imagine some TS sufferers experiencing both.
Because head injury can cause these seizures, tics can definitely cause seizures in rare instances. Although tics and seizures are different, someone can definitely experience both.
Children with epilepsy may have an increased risk of tic-disorders
Tic disorders often start in childhood, although it is possible to appear later in life.
This PubMed article looks at the link between children with epilepsy developing tic disorders, stating ‘epilepsy and tic disorders may share common mechanisms’.
It talks of a possible link between children with epilepsy having an increased risk of developing a tic disorder, although declaring that ‘the association between epilepsy and tic disorders has never been studied’.
I will have to come back to this post if I find more information, however it is useful to know of a possible link between Tourette’s and epilepsy.
There is evidence that children with Tourette Syndrome have an increased risk of epilepsy
I found this PubMed study online that linked the risk of epilepsy in children with Tourette Syndrome.
The study looked at over 1,000 people with Tourette below 18 years of age, and found an increased risk of epilepsy in those with TS.
Below is taken from the study linked:
‘The association between epilepsy and Tourette syndrome has rarely been investigated.’
It seems that more studies need to be done on this, however this current study is a good indicator that there is a link. There is:
‘strong evidence that Tourette syndrome is associated with a higher risk of epilepsy.’
Strong evidence is reported, and the report ends by stating that a close follow-up between the two is needed.
Tourette’s, epilepsy and seizures conclusion
There need to be more studies conducted, but early on it seems that those with Tourette and tic disorders are at an increased risk of epilepsy.
It also seems that those with epilepsy are at an increased risk of tic-disorder and/or Tourette Syndrome.
Seizures can look like tics on occasions, and vice versa. So it is important to know the difference.
For anyone curious, I have also created a post on the difference between Tourette Syndrome and other tic disorders. You can view this by clicking here.
I do hope that in time more studies are conducted on this, and we have a better understanding of how the various conditions occur, and the links between them.