Tourette (too-RET) syndrome is a disorder that involves repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that can’t be easily controlled. For instance, you might repeatedly blink your eyes, shrug your shoulders or blurt out unusual sounds or offensive words.
Tics typically show up between ages 2 and 15, with the average being around 6 years of age. Males are about three to four times more likely than females to develop Tourette syndrome.
Although there’s no cure for Tourette syndrome, treatments are available. Many people with Tourette syndrome don’t need treatment when symptoms aren’t troublesome. Tics often lessen or become controlled after the teen years
Tics — sudden, brief, intermittent movements or sounds — are the hallmark sign of Tourette syndrome. They can range from mild to severe. Severe symptoms might significantly interfere with communication, daily functioning and quality of life.
Tics are classified as:
Simple and Complex tics.
Tics can also involve movement (motor tics) or sounds (vocal tics). Motor tics usually begin before vocal tics do. But the spectrum of tics that people experience is diverse.
Common motor tics were seen in Tourette syndrome
|Simple tics||Complex tics|
|Eye blinking||Shoulder shrugging|
|Stepping in a certain pattern||Nose twitching Bending or twisting|
|Head jerking movements||Repeating observed|
|Eye darting||Obscene gesturing|
|Grunting||Repeating one’s own words or phrases|
|Throat clearing||Touching or smelling objects|
|Coughing||Repeating others’ words or phrases|
|Using vulgar||obscene or swear words|
In addition, tics can:
- Vary in type, frequency and severity
- Worsen if you’re ill, stressed, anxious, tired or excited
- Occur during sleep
- Change over time
- Worsen in the early teenage years and improve during the transition into adulthood
Before the onset of motor or vocal tics, you’ll likely experience an uncomfortable bodily sensation (premonitory urge) such as an itch, a tingle or tension. Expression of the tic brings relief. With great effort, some people with Tourette syndrome can temporarily stop or hold back a tic.
When to see a doctor
See your child’s pediatrician if you notice your child displaying involuntary movements or sounds.
Not all tics indicate Tourette syndrome. Many children develop tics that go away on their own after a few weeks or months. But whenever a child shows unusual behavior, it’s important to identify the cause and rule out serious health problems.