Tourette’s syndrome is a problem with the nervous system that causes people to make sudden movements or sounds, called tics, that they can’t control. For example, someone with Tourette’s might blink or clear their throat over and over again. Some people may blurt out words they don’t intend to say.
It usually starts during childhood, but the tics and other symptoms usually improve after several years and sometimes go away completely.
Tics are the main symptom of Tourette’s syndrome. They usually appear in childhood between the ages of 2 and 14 (around 6 years is the average). People with Tourette’s syndrome have a combination of physical and vocal tics.
Examples of physical tics include:
• eye rolling
• shoulder shrugging
• jerking of the head or limbs
• touching objects and other people
Examples of vocal tics include:
• throat clearing
• tongue clicking
• animal sounds
• saying random words and phrases
• repeating a sound, word or phrase
Tourette is a highly complex syndrome. It involves abnormalities in various parts of your brain and the electrical circuits that connect them. If you have Tourette syndrome, an abnormality may exist in your basal ganglia, the part of your brain that contributes to controlling motor movements.
Chemicals in your brain that transmit nerve impulses may also be involved. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters include –
Risk Factors –
Risk factors for Tourette syndrome include:
• Gender: Males are three to four times more likely than females to develop TS.
• Family history: Parents may pass TS down to children through genes (inherited).
• Prenatal health: Children born to mothers who smoked or had health complications during pregnancy may be at a higher risk for TS. Low birth weight may also increase the chances of TS.
Some tics are harmful, such as motor tics that cause someone to hit themselves in the face. A vocal tic called coprolalia leads to swearing or inappropriate language. This type of tic can make someone seem purposefully disruptive or offensive, even though it’s an uncontrollable impulse. Children with coprolalia might receive unwarranted punishment at school or at home.
There’s no single test for Tourette’s syndrome. Tests and scans, such as an MRI scan, may be used to rule out other conditions. You can be diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome if you’ve had several tics for at least a year.
If your tics aren’t severe and you experience a more mild form of Tourette syndrome, you may not need treatment. If your tics are severe or cause thoughts of self-harm, several treatments are available.
Behavioral therapy includes:
• awareness training
• competing response training
• cognitive behavioral intervention for tics
Your therapist may also use the following methods during psychotherapy sessions:
• relaxation techniques
• guided meditation
• deep breathing exercises
You may find group therapy helpful. You’ll receive counseling with other people in the same age group who also have Tourette syndrome.
There are no medications that can cure Tourette syndrome.
However, your healthcare professional may prescribe one or more of the following drugs to help you manage your symptoms:
•Haloperidol (Haldol), aripiprazole (Abilify), risperidone (Risperdal), or other neuroleptic drugs.
• Onabotulinum toxin A (Botox).
• Methylphenidate (Ritalin).
• Topiramate (Topamax).
• Cannabis-based medications.
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