Tourette syndrome is a problem with the nervous system that results in tics that a person cannot control. Tics are sudden muscle movements or vocal sounds that can range from mild to severe.
The exact cause of Tourette syndrome is not known. Genetics and brain chemicals are thought to play a role.
TS may be inherited through genes, which make up DNA.
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Tourette syndrome is more common in males. It usually starts when a child is 5 years of age. These factors in the mother may raise the risk:
- Poor weight gain during pregnancy
- Use of alcohol or cannabis in the last two months of pregnancy
Tourette syndrome problems may be mild to severe. They can occur suddenly and the length of time they last can vary. Tics may ease during times of focus or distraction. They may happen more often during times of stress.
A person may have:
- Movement tics, such as:
- Eye blinking
- Facial grimacing
- Head jerking
- Arm or leg thrusting
- Touching things or other people
- Twirling around
- Vocal tics, such as:
- Throat clearing or coughing
- Grunting, yelping, or barking
- Saying words or phrases that do not make sense in a given situation
- Saying obscene or socially unacceptable words
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to manage tics. This will include care providers who specialize in Tourette syndrome.
Treatment options may be:
- Education to help the person, family, school, and others learn about the syndrome
- Behavioral therapy, such as habit reversal training and cognitive behavioral therapy
People with severe symptoms may also need medicine. It may lessen tics in some people.
There are no current guidelines to prevent Tourette syndrome.
- Tics, Tourette syndrome, and medications. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center website. Available at: https://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/t/tics-ts-meds.
- Tourette syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/tourette-syndrome.
- What is Tourette syndrome? Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at: https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions/tourette-syndrome.
- Kari Kuenn, MD
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