Tourette Syndrome Symptoms

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Tourette Syndrome is a neurological condition that is characterized by tics, which are repeated, involuntary, sudden movements or vocalizations. The severity of the tics can vary widely, and they range from barely noticeable to debilitating and disruptive.

Common types of tics involving movements include:

  • eye blinking
  • grimacing
  • shoulder shrugging
  • head jerking
  • touching the nose
  • In more serious cases, touching people or things, twirling around, jumping, and even self-injurious behaviors (such as hitting oneself) may be observed.

Tics involving vocalizations include:

  • repetitive throat clearing
  • tongue clicking
  • making strange or inappropriate noises such as yelping
  • repeating others' words or phrases (termed echolalia)
  • uttering swear words or racial slurs (called coprolalia, this phenomenon only occurs in about 15% of people with Tourette's Syndrome)

The symptoms of Tourette Syndrome usually begin in childhood and generally worsen during the teen years. The severity and frequency of tics and even the type of tics can vary over time in a given individual. While the tics are considered involuntary, some people perceive the tics as urges and can learn to suppress their symptoms to a certain extent and for limited periods of time. Many, but not all, people with Tourette Syndrome suffer from other neurological and/or behavioral conditions including:

Tourette Syndrome is an inherited condition that causes different types of symptoms with varying degrees of severity in different family members. The condition is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner, meaning that affected persons have a 50% chance of passing the gene or genes along to their children, who may display no symptoms or entirely different symptoms than the affected parent. Males who inherit the gene have a greater chance of having symptoms than females.

There is no known cure for Tourette Syndrome, and most cases are mild and require no medication. In more serious cases, doctors can prescribe a variety of medications that have been shown to reduce frequency and severity of tics, but no one drug or category of drugs is effective in all persons with the condition. Symptoms usually improve with age, and some people with Tourette Syndrome even become symptom-free later in life.

Last Editorial Review: 8/17/2005