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Tourette Syndrome

What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette syndrome is an inherited neurological disorder characterized by tics -- involuntary, rapid, sudden movements or vocalizations that occur repeatedly. Sometimes the tics are inappropriate words or phrases.

Tourette syndrome is named after Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, a French neurologist who first described a woman with the disease.

Tourette syndrome affects people of all ethnic groups.

Symptoms of Tourette Syndrome

Symptoms usually appear before the individual is 18 years old. The first symptoms are usually facial tics, such as an eye blinking frequently. Facial tics also include nose twitching or grimaces. Motor tics are also symptoms. A motor tic may consist of head jerking, neck stretching, foot stomping, or body bending and twisting.

Other symptoms of Tourette syndrome, include uttering strange and unacceptable sounds, words or phrases. Sometimes individuals with Tourette Syndrome may involuntarily shout or constantly repeat bad words. In severe cases, the individual may practice lip and cheek biting and head banging. Symptoms may disappear for weeks or months at a time.

What Causes Tourette Syndrome?

The specific cause of tourette syndrome is unknown. Research suggests there is an abnormality in the gene(s) responsible for the brain's metabolism of neurotransmitters.

Can people with Tourette Syndrome control their tics?

Sometimes. People with Tourette syndrome can sometimes suppress their tics for a short time, however the task is similar to that of holding back a sneeze. Eventually tension mounts and the tic escapes. Tics worsen in stressful situations. Tics they improve when the person is relaxed. Tics usually decrease during sleep.

How is Tourette Syndrome diagnosed?

Tourette syndrome is a clinical diagnosis. This means blood tests or other laboratory tests do not definitively diagnose the Syndrome. Usually Tourette syndrome is diagnosed by observing the symptoms and evaluating family history. For a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome to be made, both motor and phonic tics must be present for at least 1 year.

Tourette Syndrome Statistics:

  • Males are affected 3 to 4 times more often than females. 
  • It is estimated that 100,000 Americans have full-blown Tourette syndrome.

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