Tourette Syndrome

tourette's poster

Tourette Syndrome Spectrum Disorder Overview

Tourette syndrome is an inherited brain disorder involving involuntary utterances and body movements. It affects more men than women. It was named for Georges Gilles de la Tourette, a French doctor who described the symptoms in 1885.

Symptoms usually appear early

Tourette syndrome symptoms begin before the age of 21, usually between 7 and 10 years of age. In most patients, the first symptom is an involuntary eye blink. Most patients soon develop other such motor tics (brief, repetitive, purposeless movements of muscles).

These tics may include eyebrow raising, nose flaring, mouth opening, head shaking, teeth gnashing, finger cracking, jumping, stamping, or kicking. Some patients also begin to make uncontrollable sounds, called vocal tics. These include grunting, barking, belching, speaking unintelligibly, and occasionally coprolalia. Coprolalia is the involuntary utterance of vulgar words.

In Tourette syndrome, tics occur multiple times each day and the location of a particular motor tic may vary considerably over time. For example, eye-blinking tics may disappear and shoulder-shrugging tics may appear. Not all children with motor or vocal tics have Tourette syndrome. Before a doctor can make a final diagnosis, the Tourette syndrome symptoms must be present for at least one year.

Some Tourette syndrome patients have short attentions spans and may also be hyperactive. Although the disorder is not psychological, some patients have emotional stress trying to deal with it.

Researchers suspect that Tourette syndrome results from an abnormality in the neurotransmitters, the chemicals that carry signals between nerve cells. There is no cure, but certain drugs can help control the Tourette syndrome symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the development of psychological problems.


World Book. Contributor: William J. Weiner, M.D., Professor of Neurology, University of Miami.

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