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Condition

Tourette Syndrome

Symptoms, Doctors, Treatments, Research & More

Condition 101

What is the definition of Tourette Syndrome?

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

What are the alternative names for Tourette Syndrome?

Gilles de la Tourette syndrome; Tic disorders - Tourette syndrome

What are the causes for Tourette 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.

Tourette 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 of Tourette syndrome.

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

What are the symptoms for Tourette Syndrome?

Symptoms of Tourette syndrome is often first noticed during childhood, between ages 7 and 10. Most children with Tourette 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 Tourette 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.

What are the current treatments for Tourette 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 Tourette 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 Tourette syndrome and the obsessive-compulsive behaviors. The treatment is not recommended when these symptoms occur in the same person.

What are the support groups for Tourette Syndrome?

More information and support for people with Tourette syndrome and their families can be found at:

  • Tourette Association of America -- tourette.org/online-support-groups-tourette-syndrome/

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Tourette Syndrome?

Symptoms are often worst during the teenage years and then improve in early adulthood. In some people, symptoms go away entirely for a few years and then return. In a few people, symptoms do not return at all.

What are the possible complications for Tourette Syndrome?

Conditions that may occur in people who have Tourette syndrome include:

  • Anger control issues
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Poor social skills

These conditions need to be diagnosed and treated.

When should I contact a medical professional for Tourette Syndrome?

Make an appointment with your provider if you or child has tics that are severe or persistent, or if they interfere with daily life.

How do I prevent Tourette Syndrome?

There is no known prevention.

REFERENCES

Jankovic J. Parkinson disease and other movement disorders. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 96.

Martinez-Ramirez D, Jimenez-Shahed J, Leckman JF, et al. Efficacy and safety of deep brain stimulation in Tourette syndrome: The International Tourette Syndrome Deep Brain Stimulation Public Database and Registry. JAMA Neurol. 2018;75(3):353-359. PMID: 29340590 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29340590/.

Ryan CA, Walter HJ, DeMaso DR. Motor disorders and habits. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 37.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Aerophagia
  • Journal: Zhongguo dang dai er ke za zhi = Chinese journal of contemporary pediatrics
  • Treatment Used: Psycho-behavioral Therapy
  • Number of Patients: 46
  • Published —
The study aimed to understand the clinical features of aerophagia in children.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Tic Disorders
  • Journal: Behavior therapy
  • Treatment Used: Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tic Disorders
  • Number of Patients: 15
  • Published —
In this study, researchers evaluated the outcomes of using the Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tic Disorders for children under 9.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trial
Drug
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Study Type: Drug
  • Participants: 20
  • Start Date: December 2020
A Pilot Study to Evaluate the Effects of Atomoxetine on Impulsivity in Patients With Tourette's Syndrome
Clinical Trial
Drug
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Study Type: Drug
  • Participants: 10
  • Start Date: December 2020
D-cycloserine Augmented Treatment: Enhancing Extinction Learning in Youth With Tic Disorders