Tourette Syndrome (cont.)

What is the course of Tourette syndrome?

Tics come and go over time, varying in type, frequency, location, and severity. The first symptoms usually occur in the head and neck area and may progress to include muscles of the trunk and extremities. Motor tics generally precede the development of vocal tics and simple tics often precede complex tics. Most patients experience peak tic severity before the mid-teen years with improvement for the majority of patients in the late teen years and early adulthood. Approximately 10 percent of those affected have a progressive or disabling course that lasts into adulthood.

Can people with Tourette syndrome control their tics?

Although the symptoms of Tourette syndrome are involuntary, some people can sometimes suppress, camouflage, or otherwise manage their tics in an effort to minimize their impact on functioning. However, people with Tourette syndrome often report a substantial buildup in tension when suppressing their tics to the point where they feel that the tic must be expressed. Tics in response to an environmental trigger can appear to be voluntary or purposeful but are not.

What causes Tourette syndrome?

Although the cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown, current research points to abnormalities in certain brain regions (including the basal ganglia, frontal lobes, and cortex), the circuits that interconnect these regions, and the neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine) responsible for communication among nerve cells. Given the often complex presentation of Tourette syndrome, the cause of the disorder is likely to be equally complex.

What disorders are associated with Tourette syndrome?

Many with Tourette syndrome experience additional neurobehavioral problems including inattention; hyperactivity and impulsivity (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder-ADHD) and related problems with reading, writing, and arithmetic; and obsessive-compulsive symptoms such as intrusive thoughts/worries and repetitive behaviors. For example, worries about dirt and germs may be associated with repetitive hand-washing, and concerns about bad things happening may be associated with ritualistic behaviors such as counting, repeating, or ordering and arranging. People with Tourette syndrome have also reported problems with depression or anxiety disorders, as well as other difficulties with living, that may or may not be directly related to Tourette syndrome. Given the range of potential complications, people with Tourette syndrome are best served by receiving medical care that provides a comprehensive treatment plan.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2014

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