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Light-induced tics?

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  • Light-induced tics?

    Hi, I'm hoping someone can help us out. Not sure if this is TS, or something else.

    My eight-year-old son has had this odd tic for a little over a year now. It occurs when he's in bright direct light, usually sunlight. He turns toward the light, as if drawn to it- he won't wear a hat or sunglasses- and blinks or flutters his eyes while waving his hand in front of his eyes. Often he will have an added twitch or spasm.

    Here's a clip of the behavior:

    We took him to a pediatric neurologist, who said his EEG was fine, and said it seemed to be simply a habit, and not to worry about it. We're highly doubtful of that opinion, but unsure where else to go. It seems sort of like TS, but I haven't heard of light-induced tics like this. My wife has had a couple of seizures- could this be epilepsy-related? Or something like stuttering? Do we need an MRI, CT scan, therapy?

    Hoping someone can shed some light on this. It is frustrating for him and for us.


  • #2
    Re: Light-induced tics?

    Hello Randy and welcome to the Forum. As you can appreciate we are not in a position to offer a diagnosis but perhaps some direction.

    There is no diagnostic test that can determine Tourette Syndrome, because Tourette is diagnosed through interview and observation by a medical professional who has clinical experience with Tourette and not all medical professionals have adequate training, interest or sufficient clinical experience with Tourette. It's important to determine by your own research and by asking questions if the person you are consulting has this expertise.

    I am not aware of light actually triggering tics, however by looking at the video, his behaviour reminded me of somone fascinated by the effect of blocking the light causing a perspective distortion by moving his hand back and forth.

    Whether it is Tourette related would have to be determined by a competent medical professional who would consider all the other diagnostic criteria.

    Has your son been seen by an opthamologist to evaluate his vision? Has he exhibited any other motor activity or vocal tics?

    How is it frustrating for your son?
    TouretteLinks Forum


    • #3
      Re: Light-induced tics?

      Hi Randy,
      My son has stimuli-induced tics. This morning, he saw a light and asked me to close it because he felt heat on his nose; he just couldn't bear it. A couple of months before, he had this strange tic: when someone around him would crunch a celery, an apple or a carro, he had a strange sensation on his nose and he had to punch his nose until we would stop making noise. I don't know if your son's behavior is a tic, I'm not a professional, but I think it's a possibility. When my son first exhibited this tic, I posted a question about it on the TSA (Tourette Syndrome Association) Facebook page. Some people answered saying that they have similar tics.


      • #4
        Re: Light-induced tics?

        I suggest you request the opinion/s of other specialists. Before you make a booking, make sure that they do something about Tourette Syndrome. There's nothing wrong with get a few opinions.
        Last edited by Steve; September 7, 2011, 11:19 AM. Reason: typo


        • #5
          Re: Light-induced tics?

          Hi Randy,

          On a purely practical level, have you tried reducing your son's exposure to these sensory stimuli to see if they reduce the tics?

          For example, when he's outside would wearing a hat reduce the effect of the bright sun on eyes? If he won't wear a hat or glasses can you think of a creative way to give him a bit of shielding from the sun? If this tic appears in the classroom, would his teacher sit him on the side of the class away from the windows?

          For the other tic:
          he had this strange tic: when someone around him would crunch a celery, an apple or a carro, he had a strange sensation on his nose and he had to punch his nose until we would stop making noise.
          Would it be possible to seat him so he faces the room, and can see the people eating in front of him, instead of hearing it only. Would that reduce the response of punching his nose?

          These are just a few thoughts. Steve also has some excellent suggestions.
          Tina, Forum Moderator, TSFC Staff Liaison

          TSFC Homepage
          TSFC Membership


          • #6
            Re: Light-induced tics?

            What a relieve to eventually find somebody with the same symptoms. My son was 5 years old when he contracted Meningitis. 4 days during his treatment for Meningitis he developed Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS). If you are unaware of this illness then please Google it to see what it's all about to get a better understanding of my son's medical history.

            19 months later (age 8) we noticed that he rotates his eyes when exposed to direct sunlight. Few weeks later we noticed him waving his right hand in front of his face while rotating his eyes. I thought this might be due to the Meningitis or GBS. Took him to a Paediatric Neurologist - did an EEG scan. Positive result 3 spikes when flicker light was administered to the EEG test. He was put on Epilim and the diagnosis PHOTOSENSITIVE EPILEPSY.

            Was told after 3 months the symptoms will be gone, but unfortunately it was still very much invested in his behaviour. I took him for a second opinion a year and a half later. He was referred to a Psychologist and it was determined that he has anxiety and depression and more meds were added. At that time he had to take 150 tablets per month - TOO MUCH for a small child. His mood conditions got worse and I decided to cut down on all meds.

            We gradually took him of everything. It's now 3 weeks without any meds! His eye rotation condition is still the same. He wears a hat to prevent the sun in his eyes, but even with the hat the TIC still occurs. We are also in the dark with this behaviour, because we don't know anybody else with the same experience.

            My child suffers because the other kids small and grown will laugh at him and make fun of him or they'll keep on asking why he is doing it. It's not an easy road for him that's why I'm sure that this is not self-induced because they suffer through this action. They are not gaining any positive reaction.

            Yes, I would also like to know why, what, for how long???? I almost cried when I saw your son's video clip on YouTube. I saw my own boy the only difference is that my son doesn't wave repeatedly. He'll wave once and then only again with the next tic. He is very sensitive to sunlight - would hide from sun while driving in the car - and this in sunny South Africa!

            Please feel free to make contact with me by replying to this post.

            We do have something in common and I think we share the same worries, heartache and the uncertainty becomes unbearable at times.

            Jane (South Africa)
            Attached Files
            Last edited by Steve; October 13, 2011, 06:52 PM. Reason: edit email adr


            • #7
              Re: Light-induced tics?

              Sorry I didn't respond sooner, I didn't get a notification of your response.
              I found posts on other forums about the same behavior, beginning with extending the neck back and rolling the eyes, and progressing within months to the hand-waving. In each case it affected boys 7-12. So far I haven't gotten in touch with any of these other parents.
              We are still seeking answers. I don't have any more information for you, but I'll update you on our progress. Please let us know how your son's doing.


              • #8
                Re: Light-induced tics?

                I'm hoping someone sees this, my 12 year old daughter has been doing this same exact thing now for 2 years. Only when in bright or direct sunlight. The pediatric neurologist says she will grow out of it. I try to keep her out of the sun, wearing a hat or sunglasses. I am interested to know if you have had any other suggestions, diagnosis, etc, regarding this. It is worrisome with the associated eye rolling, fearful that she will stumble, fall, run into something, get hurt. She isn't always aware she does it, and sometimes she will flat out deny it. Its really frustrating.


                • #9
                  Re: Light-induced tics?

                  Welcome to the Forum!

                  I'm hoping someone sees this
                  New posts are seen every time a Forum member or Forum staffer visits the Forum, using the link for "Recent Posts" or "New Posts" in the toolbar at the top of each Forum page.

                  Originally posted by aechandler725
                  She isn't always aware she does it, and sometimes she will flat out deny it. Its really frustrating.
                  Has your daughter been officially diagnosed with Tourette or with Transient Tic Disorder?

                  If it is Tourette, you probably know that Tourette tics are involuntary and a person expressing their tics are unable to control them.

                  If people around her are bringing her tics to her attention, it may be a causing her some frustration, and her response could well be denial.

                  Is the frustration you allude to in your daughter or in Mom?
                  TouretteLinks Forum


                  • #10
                    Re: Light-induced tics?

                    She hasn't been re evaluated in over a year, since they first started. When we first noticed them I wasn't able to correlate the sun as the cause/stimuli/trigger. Per neuro said ''its probably just a tic she will grow out of'. At age 8 she experienced 2-3 ''episodes'' which were absence seizure type, but eeg completely normal, without recurrence. Ped neuro MD did not want to give her a seizure dx, but rather called it a transient episode. There has been no recurrence since that time, but the tic has developed. It is only in sunlight, and sometimes when we are driving down the road and the sun behind the trees gives a strobe light type effect,she has rapid eye blinking and can't bring herself to turn from the light. The frustration belongs to me and to my husband. He thinks she can control or stop it if she really wanted to. She gets frustrated when we bring it to her attention.
                    Last edited by aechandler725; June 20, 2012, 10:47 PM. Reason: extra info


                    • #11
                      Re: Light-induced tics?

                      He thinks she can control or stop it if she really wanted to.
                      Regardless of what the diagnosis might be, this is Dad has to re-orient his thinking. Assuming the expressions of your daughter are behavioural are unfair and baseless, applying undue pressure on her making her feel she is failing in her father's expectations. That, in itself can exacerbate whatever is going on and can adversely affect her self image throughout maturity.

                      Until you get a definite diagnosis, no assumptions should be made.

                      Ped neuro MD did not want to give her a seizure dx, but rather called it a transient episode.
                      If she is triggered by flashing lights, this should be immediately investigated by a neurologist as this type of trigger can indicate some important neurological issues. I would consider following up on the original consultation, and if necessary getting a second opinion. This should not be ignored.
                      TouretteLinks Forum


                      • #12
                        Hey everyone-
                        Just found a page dealing with this exact thing- called "Sunflower Syndrome" on Facebook.
                        Lots of people posting videos, pics and updates.
                        Or just Google Sunflower Syndrome.

                        Sunflower Syndrome is a rare case of photosensitive epilepsy that involves self induction of a seizure by facing the sun and waving a open hand in front of one's eyes.

                        Here is a great page with lots of people posting videos and information:

                        Here's an example of what it looks like: