Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette's Syndrome
Tourette's Syndrome

Overview Of Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette’s Syndrome is a condition that causes a person to make repeated, quick movements or sounds that they cannot control.

Commonly Associated With

Gilles de la Tourette syndrome; Tic disorders – Tourette syndrome

Causes Of Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette syndrome is named for Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who first described this disorder in 1885. The disorder is likely passed down through families.

The syndrome may be linked to problems in certain areas of the brain. It may have to do with chemical substances (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine) that help nerve cells signal one another.

The syndrome can be either severe or mild. Many people with very mild tics may not be aware of them and never seek medical help. Far fewer people have more severe forms.

Tourette syndrome is 4 times as likely to occur in boys as in girls. There is a 50% chance that a person with this syndrome will pass the gene onto his or her children.

Symptoms Of Tourette’s Syndrome

Symptoms of Tourette syndrome are often first noticed during childhood, between ages 7 and 10. Most children with this syndrome also have other medical problems. These can include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), impulse control disorder, or depression.

The most common first symptom is a tic of the face. Other tics may follow. A tic is a sudden, fast, repeated movement or sound.

Symptoms of Tourette syndrome can range from tiny, minor movements (such as grunts, sniffling, or coughing) to constant movements and sounds that cannot be controlled.

Different types of tics can include:

  • Arm thrusting
  • Eye blinking
  • Jumping
  • Kicking
  • Repeated throat clearing or sniffing
  • Shoulder shrugging

Tics may occur many times a day. They tend to improve or get worse at different times. The tics may change with time. Symptoms often get worse before the mid-teen years.

Contrary to popular belief, only a small number of people use curse words or other inappropriate words or phrases (coprolalia).

Tourette syndrome is different from OCD. People with OCD feel as though they have to do the behaviors. Sometimes a person can have both the syndrome and OCD.

Many people with Tourette syndrome can stop doing the tic for periods of time. But they find that the tic is stronger for a few minutes after they allow it to start again. Often, the tic slows or stops during sleep.

Exams & Tests

There are no lab tests to diagnose this syndrome. A health care provider will likely do an examination to rule out other causes of the symptoms.

To be diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, a person must:

  • Have had many motor tics and one or more vocal tics, although these tics may not have occurred at the same time.
  • Have tics that occur many times a day, nearly every day or on and off, for a period of more than 1 year.
  • Have started the tics before age 18.
  • Have no other brain problem that could be a likely cause of the symptoms.

Treatment Of Tourette’s Syndrome

People who have mild symptoms are not treated. This is because the side effects of the medicines may be worse than the symptoms of this syndrome.

A type of talk therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy) called habit-reversal may help to suppress tics.

Different medicines are available to treat Tourette syndrome. The exact medicine that is used depends on the symptoms and any other medical problems.

Ask your provider if deep brain stimulation is an option for you. It is being evaluated for the main symptoms of this syndrome and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. The treatment is not recommended when these symptoms occur in the same person.