Tourette's Syndrome

Tourette?s disorder, or Tourette?s syndrome (TS) as it is frequently called, is a neurologic syndrome. The essential feature of Tourette?s are multiple tics that are sudden, rapid, recurrent, non-rhythmic, stereotypical, purposeless movements or vocalizations.

Although the cause has not been definitely established, there is considerable evidence that Tourette?s syndrome arises from abnormal metabolism of dopamine, a neurotransmitter.3 Other neurotransmitters may be involved. Genetic studies indicate that Tourette?s syndrome is inherited as an autosomal dominant gene but different family members may have dissimilar symptoms. A parent has a 50 percent chance of passing the gene to one of his or her children. The range of symptomatology varies from multiple severe tics to very minor tics with varying degrees of attention deficit-disorder and OCD. Girls with the gene have a 70 percent chance of displaying symptoms, boys with the gene have a 99 percent chance of displaying symptoms. Ratios of boys with Tourette?s syndrome to girls with Tourette?s syndrome are 3:1.

What are the symptoms of Tourette?s syndrome?1

  • Both multiple motor and one or more vocal tics are present at some time during the illness, although not necessarily simultaneously
  • Occurrence many times a day nearly every day or intermittently throughout a span of more than one year
  • Significant impairment or marked distress in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • Onset before the age of 182

Symptoms can disappear for weeks or months at a time and severity waxes and wanes.

What are the first tics that may be characteristic of Tourette?s syndrome?

Usually, the facial tic, such as rapid blinking of the eyes or twitches of the mouth, may be the first indication a parent has that their child may have Tourette?s syndrome. Involuntary sounds, such as throat clearing and sniffing, or tics of the limbs may be an initial sign in other children.

Are any other symptoms associated with Tourette?s syndrome?

Approximately 50 percent of patients meet criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and this may be the more impairing problem. Approximately one-third of patients meet criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or have other forms of anxiety. Learning disabilities are common as well as developmental stuttering. Social discomfort, self-consciousness and depressed mood frequently occur, especially as children reach adolescence.

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