Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics.
Tics may be preceded by an urge to do a movement or vocalization, followed by a sense of relief afterwards. Tics are called “involuntary,” meaning that you can often suppress them, but it causes tremendous stress and discomfort to do so.
Tics can be simple or complex. Simple motor tics are brief movements such as eye blinking, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, or head or limb jerks. Simple vocal tics include throat-clearing, grunting, coughing or sniffing.
Tics can be more complex, such as touching objects or other people, hopping or twirling, or saying words or phrases. Tics sometimes involve saying obscene words, or even result in self-harm such as a tic of hitting oneself or doing severe neck jerks.
Tourette syndrome often occurs with other problems, such as:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
The cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown. We do know that tics tend to run in families, and we know of two genes that can cause Tourette syndrome in a minority of cases. Tics are more common in boys than girls. In Tourette syndrome, tics usually start in childhood and may be worst in the early teens. Many people eventually outgrow them.
No treatment is needed unless the tics interfere with everyday life. Excitement or worry can make tics worse. Medicines can reduce tics. Behavioral therapy, in which patients are taught by psychologists to manage the tics by changing certain behaviors, may help.
Source: NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke