What is Tourette Syndrome?
What is Tourette Syndrome (TS)?
TS is a neurological disorder which begins between the ages of 2 - 21, and often lasts throughout life. TS is NOT degenerative (it won't kill you).
What Causes Tourette Syndrome?
TS is a genetic or hereditary condition. In other words it is not uncommon to find that several other members of his/her family have features of TS.
We used to think that TS was an emotional or psychiatric condition, but the more recent theories suggest TS is something that is caused by the chemical abnormality in the nerve cells in parts of the brain and of the messages that take place between nerve cells. It seems that the most likely areas affected in the brain are the basal ganglia, the limbic system and their nerve connections.
It was once thought that TS was a very rare condition. This is not true, and although different researchers have come up with different figures, it would not be far wrong to estimate that as many as one person in every hundred has TS. It is even more common in families who have a member with TS, and the chances of having another person with TS in such a family may be as high as 1 in 15
People from all countries, cultures and walks of life can have TS
What are the symptoms?
TS is characterised by rapid, repetitive multiple movements called "tics" and involuntary vocalisations. Tics are experienced as irresistible, as the urge to sneeze or to scratch a mosquito bite, must eventually be performed. Typically tics increase as a result of tension or stress and decrease with relaxation or concentration on an absorbing task.
How are tics classified?
Tics are regarded as either motor (physical movements) or vocal:
Motor - Eye blinking, head jerking, shoulder shrugging, sniffing, jumping, touching other people or things, repetitive movements of the torso or limbs
Vocal - Throat clearing, grunting, barking noises, tongue clicking, utttering words or phrases, coprolalia (involuntary swearing), palilalia (repetition of own words), echolalia (repeating a sound or word just heard)
Do people with TS have all of these symptoms or just some of them?
People with TS rarely have all these symptoms. Most people will exhibit some or many symptoms over a long period of time and in varying degrees, mild, moderate or severe.
Are there other behaviour problems which may occur in addition to tics?
Yes, but not always. Additional problems may include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit and/or Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities and behavioural problems.
What are the first symptoms?
The most common first symptom is a facial tic such as rapidly blinking eyes or twitching of the mouth. However, involuntary sounds such as throat clearing and sniffing or tics of the limbs may be the initial sign.
Is it a psychiatric disorder?
No. TS is a neurological (nervous system) disorder .
How is it diagnosed?
The diagnosis is made by observing the symptoms and by evaluating their onset. No blood analysis, x-ray, or other type of medical test exists to identify TS.
Is there a cure?
Not yet. But medication can be effective to control the symptoms in some cases.
Is there ever a remission?
Some people experience a marked improvement in their late teens or early twenties
Can people with TS lead normal lives?
They certainly can, and the great majority do. People with TS do not become less intelligent. Many reach high achievement in the area of academia, business and sportsmanship.
Is it important to treat TS early?
Yes, to avoid psychological harm EARLY DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT ARE CRUCIAL. The opportunity for parents and young people to gain mutual support can be very important.