Description

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by sudden, repetitive, stereotyped, unplanned movements and vocalizations called tics.  The first symptoms of TS are almost always noticed in childhood.  Tics may involve a limited number of muscle groups or several muscle groups.  Someof the more common tics include:

  • eye blinking and other vision irregularities
  • shoulder shrug
  • facial grimacing, sometimes combined with a shoulder shrug
  • head or shoulder jerking

Examples of vocal tics include:

  • repetitice throat clearing, barking, or grunting sounds
  • repeating one's phrasing, or those of others
  • uttering swear or vulgar words

Some tics include self-harm, such as punching oneself in the face.  Many individuals with TS experience additional neurobehavioral problems including inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, difficulty organizing and responding to sensory information such as taste or sound, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Most cases of TS involve the interaction of multiple gene variations and environmental factors. 

Treatment

Many people do not need treatment when symptoms do not interfere with daily life.  Because tic symptoms often are mild and do not often cause impairment, some people with TS require no treatment.  Medications are available to suppress tics and to treat some of the associated neurobehavioral disorders that can occur in people with TS.  Other treatment options include behavioral treatments and psychotherapy.

Prognosis

Most people with TS experience their worst tic symptoms in their early teens, but tics typically lessen and become controlled by the late teens to early 20s.   Some individuals may actually become symptom free or no longer need medication for control their tics.  Tourette syndrome can be a chronic condition with symptoms lasting a lifetime; in some cases, tics may worsen in adulthood. 

Research

Knowledge about TS comes from studies across a number of medical and scientific disciplines, including genetics, neuroimaging, the study of nervous system diseases, and clinical science.  The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct research in laboratories at the NIH and support additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country.  Scientists are working to understand the genetics of TS.   Other research efforts include testing the effectiveness and safety of deep-brain stimulation and other forms of neurostimulation for treating tics and co-occurring conditions, and using imaging to identify brain circuitry  and neurochemical factors involved with TS. MedlinePlus Tourette Syndrome