Study: Prevalence of tics among South American schoolchildren

According to a new study, “Prevalence of Tics Among 6- to 12-Year-Old Schoolchildren in the Itagu Municipality, Colombia, in 2010,” in the Journal of Child Neurology, tics are the most frequent movement disorder in children, and they are most prevalent during the school-age years.

Most tics are transitory; however, certain tics can be chronic, causing negative repercussions at school, within the family and socially. In some cases, tics are associated with obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other conditions that require diagnosis and prompt treatment.

In South America, there are no indexed studies determining the prevalence of tics in school-age children. The aim of this study was to establish the prevalence of tics in schoolchildren aged 6 to 12 years. From 16,000 students aged 6 to 12 years who were enrolled in first to fifth grade, a sample of 346 school-aged children was chosen via a multistage sampling process that randomized the educational systems in terms of proportional size and the stratification between public and private schools and adjusted for the design effect.

The students were screened and those who were positive for tics underwent clinical evaluations and semistructured interviews by the researchers to determine the prevalence of the disease. The parents and teachers of 323 students returned our surveys (93.3 percent). One hundred thirty-eight students (42.7 percent) were considered positive for tics based on parents’ and teachers’ reports.

The clinical evaluation established a 17.9 percent prevalence of tics (58 students), and 25 students (43.2 percent) also met diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Of the students with tics, 27.6 percent presented with transitory tics, and 72.4 percent presented with chronic tics. Tourette Syndrome was detected in 11 of the children (3.4 percent).

The average age of child with tics was 9 (+/- 1.5 years), and the majority of the children with tics attended third grade at a basic primary school. Children from public and private schools were equally likely to present with tics.

Tics are noteworthy in our field and are associated with other neurobehavioral disorders, such as ADHD. Both tic disorders and ADHD require diagnosis and prompt treatment to promote social and school performance.

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