Tourette Syndrome (TS)

Topic Overview

What is Tourette syndrome (TS)?

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a brain condition that starts in childhood. Children with TS make sounds or movements that they can't control. These are called tics. Tics usually start in early childhood. They may be at their worst by age 12. Tics tend to decrease during teenage years. Sometimes they go away by adulthood.

What causes it?

The exact cause of TS is unknown. It tends to run in families. And it is more common in boys than in girls.

What are the symptoms?

Most children with TS have different patterns of tics. The tics may not be obvious. They can be bursts of movement or sounds that last for seconds or minutes.

Tics can include:

  • Eye blinking and eye rolling.
  • Jerking of the neck.
  • Coughing or throat-clearing.
  • A mix of movements and sounds.

It's common for a person who has TS to feel an urge in some part of the body that builds and builds. This urge can only be relieved by performing the tic. But not everyone with the disorder is aware of these urges.

How is it diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose TS based on your child's medical history and symptoms. The doctor may want to know if tics are causing school or social problems for your child.

There are no tests to diagnose TS. But in some cases an electroencephalogram (EEG), an MRI, or blood tests may be done to check for other health problems. Your doctor may also check for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or other learning or behavior problems. These problems sometimes occur along with TS.

How is Tourette syndrome (TS) treated?

Treatment for TS focuses on helping your child cope with the tics. Understanding how tics affect your child can help you and your child know what to expect. It may help to identify when tics occur. Then you can try to avoid things that cause tics.

Some children do not need treatment. But if tics are seriously affecting your child's quality of life at home or school, then counseling, behavioral therapy to reduce tics (habit reversal), and medicines may help. If your child has other medical problems, these may need to be treated first to see how they affect your child's symptoms.

What happens when your child has this syndrome?

As your child ages, the pattern of tics can change. Tics may come and go over weeks and months. They may also change from one kind to another. Tics may get worse and then get better. Your child may get a new tic, or an old one may come back.

Tics may get worse for no reason. Your child may try to suppress tics, which may make them last longer or be worse than at other times. They may also get worse when your child is ill, under stress, or excited.

Having TS doesn't have to mean that your child will have social problems or trouble in school. You can help your child learn to cope with tics. Start by learning more about TS and being supportive at home. Work with your child's teachers so they can understand how tics affect your child.

Despite what you might have seen in movies or on TV, most people with TS don't have uncontrollable outbursts of cursing or sexual behavior.

Credits

Current as of: December 13, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics

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