Tourette Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Tourette Syndrome

What is tourette syndrome?

Tourette syndrome is a condition of neurological disorder. An involuntary tic is a recurrent, involuntary physical movement and vocal outburst associated with this disorder. There is no known cause.

Tourette syndrome is a tic disorder. Tics are uncontrollable muscle spasms. Muscle twitches occur when a group of muscles contract suddenly.

Tourette syndrome tics are most commonly associated with:

  • Blinking
  • Sniffing
  • Grunting
  • Throat clearing
  • Grimacing
  • Shoulder movements
  • Head movements

American Brain Foundation reports that about 200,000 Americans have severe Tourette syndrome symptoms.

There are around 1 in 100 Americans who have milder symptoms. Approximately four times more males suffer from this syndrome than females.

Read: Transient Tic Disorder

What are the symptoms of tourette syndrome?

Individuals may experience different symptoms.

Tics and voice outbursts are common symptoms. The tics usually appear from 4 to 6 years old, beginning with head and neck tics. Tics can gradually appear in the limbs or trunk (torso).

Many people with Tourette syndrome experience an array of motor tics as well as vocal tics. The former involves movements while the latter involves sounds.

This most commonly occurs during the following periods:

This is usually more severe during your teenage years.

It is possible to classify tics according to types, such as motor or vocal disorders, such as involuntary speech disorders. Additional classification options include simple tics and complex tics.

Tics that occur in a single muscle group are known as simple tics. In complex tics, more than one muscle group is involved in movements or vocalizations.

Read: Chronic Motor Tic Disorder

What causes tourette syndrome?

Tourette is an extremely complex condition. It involves changes in different parts of the brain and how they are connected electrically. Tourette syndrome is caused by an abnormality in the basal ganglia, which controls motor movements in the brain.

There may also be chemical changes in the brain that cause this condition. Neurotransmitters are among these chemicals.

Here are some neurotransmitters:

  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Norepinephrine

Tourette syndrome cannot be diagnosed with a test. There are no changes in blood levels of neurotransmitters or brain imaging.

Tourette syndrome has no known cause, and it cannot be prevented. Some researchers believe the disorder may be caused by genetic mutations. Currently, researchers are searching for specific genes that cause Tourette syndrome.

The existence of family clusters has been reported. Genetics may play a part in Tourette’s development for some people based on these clusters.

Read: Motor Disorders

When should you see professional healthcare?

Parents and caregivers who notice symptoms such as uncontrolled movements or sounds should consult a health care provider.

Keep an eye out for involuntary behaviors, such as tics, movements, and other actions. The symptoms of tourette syndrome or another disorder can be determined by speaking with a healthcare professional.

How is tourette syndrome diagnosed?

It will be assessed by your healthcare provider. At least one motor and one vocal tic must have been present for a year before a diagnosis could be made.

MRI, CT scan, and electroencephalogram (EEG) may be ordered because some conditions mimic tourette syndrome, but they aren’t always required for a diagnosis. Researchers conduct these tests to rule out conditions such as a temporal lobe seizure or brain tumor that can cause similar movements.

Many people with Tourette syndrome are also suffering from the following conditions:

Read: Facial Tics Disorder

How is tourette syndrome treated?

The mildest forms of Tourette syndrome may not require treatment if your tics are not severe. You may be able to treat your tics if they are severe or lead to self-harming thoughts. If your tics become worse during your adult years, your healthcare professional may also suggest treatment.


Behavioral or psychotherapy may be recommended by your healthcare professional. A licensed mental health professional provides one-on-one counseling.

There are several types of behavioral therapy.

  • Awareness training
  • Competing response training
  • Cognitive behavioral intervention for tics

Therapy can also be useful for:

  • ADHD
  • OCD
  • Anxiety

Therapy sessions may also involve utilizing the following methods:

Group therapy might prove useful for you. Other people your age who also suffer from Tourette syndrome will be able to offer you counseling.

Read: Stereotypic Movement Disorder


Tourette syndrome is not curable with medication.

Symptoms can be managed with one or more of the drugs listed below if prescribed by your physician:

  • Haloperidol (Haldol), risperidone (Risperdal), aripiprazole (Abilify), or other neuroleptic drugs. The medications can reduce your tics by blocking or dampening your brain’s dopamine receptors. There may be side effects such as weight gain and movement issues, as well as mental fog.
  • Onabotulinum toxin A (Botox). It might be helpful for people with simple motor or vocal tics to get Botox injections. Onabotulinum toxin A was used in this off-label.
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin). You can reduce your ADHD symptoms without increasing your tics with stimulant medications such as Ritalin.
  • Clonidine. Drugs like clonidine, which decreases symptoms of tics, manages rage attacks, and helps with impulse control. Clonidine is used off-label for this purpose.
  • Topiramate (Topamax). Patients with tics can take Topamax to reduce their tics. This medicine can cause drowsiness, weight loss, cognitive and language problems and kidney stones.
  • Cannabis-based medications. It’s not clear whether cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (dronabinol) will stop adults’ tics. Other strains of medical marijuana may also help ease symptoms of tics. People who are pregnant or nursing should not take cannabis-based medications.

Neurological treatments

People with severe tics may also benefit from deep brain stimulation. It is still unclear whether this type of treatment is effective for people with Tourette syndrome.

Deep brain stimulation involves inserting a battery-powered device in your head to stimulate movement-controlling areas. Electrical stimuli may also be transmitted to those areas of the brain by implanting electrical wires.

People who have very difficult-to-treat tics have found that this method is effective. If you are considering this treatment, you should discuss its possible risks and benefits with your healthcare provider.

Read: Generalized Dystonia

Why is support important?

People who have Tourette syndrome may feel isolated and alone. When you can’t control your tics and outbursts, you’ll feel reluctant to do things other people like.

You should know you have support available for managing your condition.

You might be able to cope with Tourette syndrome if you take advantage of the resources available. If you would like more information, consider getting in touch with a healthcare provider. Group therapy may also be an option.

Feelings of loneliness can be alleviated by meeting people who have the same condition and establishing a bond. While listening to their stories, you will learn about their triumphs and struggles as well as receive advice that you can apply to your own life.

Support groups aren’t for everyone, so don’t be discouraged if they aren’t right for you. You may need to try several groups before finding one that works for you.

You can learn more about Tourette syndrome by joining a family support group if you have a loved one with the condition. It will be easier for you to help your loved one cope if you know more about Tourette’s.

You can find local support through the Tourette Association of America (TAA).

Educating teachers about the condition of their children can be one way for parents to advocate for their children.

Some children may be bullied by classmates because of Tourette syndrome. The school can assist in helping your child’s classmates to understand his or her condition, helping to prevent bullying and teasing.

It’s also possible for your child to be distracted from his or her academic work by tics and involuntary behaviors. You might want to let your child take tests and exams at school in extra time.

Read: Focal Dystonia

How harmful can tics be?

People who suffer from motor tics may hit themselves in the face due to their tics. The vocal tic coprolalia can lead to inappropriate language or swearing. People may appear purposefully disruptive or offensive through this type of tic, even though it is an uncontrollable impulse. Often, coprolalia causes children to be punished at home and at school without justification.


There are many healthy, active people with Tourette syndrome. You may experience negative self-image problems as a result of Tourette syndrome.

It is common for Tourette syndrome to be accompanied by the following conditions:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Learning disabilities
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Headaches caused by tics

What is the long-term outlook?

Your tics may improve in your late teens and early 20s, as they do in many people with Tourette syndrome. You may even lose all tics altogether as an adult.

The symptoms of Tourette syndrome may decrease with age; however, associated conditions, such as depression, panic attacks, and anxiety, may continue to appear and require treatment.

Despite its name, Tourette’s syndrome is not an affliction that affects your intellect or lifespan.

You can live a fulfilling life if you manage your symptoms of Tourette with the help of your healthcare team and access to support and resources.

2 thoughts on “Tourette Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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