Tourettes Syndrome

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Tourette syndrome (TS) is an inherited, neurological disorder characterized by repeated involuntary movements and uncontrollable vocal (phonic) sounds called tics. In a few patients, such tics can include inappropriate words and phrases. It is a fairly common childhood-onset condition that may be associated with features of many other conditions. It occurs in about 1 of every 2000 children. It is more likely to occur in boys, especially if they have a first degree relative that also has this disorder, and usually begins between the ages of 2 and 21 years of age.

Following are some of the symptoms of Tourette's syndrome:

No blood analysis, x-ray or other medical test exists to identify TS. Diagnosis is made by observing the signs or symptoms as described above. For a diagnosis of TS to be made, both motor and vocal tics must be present for at least 1 year. A doctor may wish to use a CAT scan, EEG, or other tests to rule out other ailments that could be confused with TS. Some medications cause tics, so it is important to inform the professional doing the assessment of any prescribed, over-the-counter, or street drugs to which the patient may have been exposed.

It is not known what causes TS and there is no cure, but symptoms can usually be managed with counseling, accommodations at school and medications, especially if the tics are interfering with school or social interactions. When symptoms interfere with functioning, medication can effectively improve attention span, decrease impulsivity, hyperactivity, tics, and obsessive-compulsive symptomatology. Relaxation techniques and behavior therapy may also be useful for tics, ADD symptoms, and OCD symptoms.

The diagnosis of TS does not mean that the person necessarily needs medication. Sometimes just educating the patient and those around him/her can make a significant difference, as can accommodations or modifications in school or on the job. The condition in many individuals improves as they mature. Individuals with TS can expect to live a normal life span. Although the disorder is generally lifelong and chronic, it is not a degenerative condition. TS on its own does not impair intelligence.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,