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Tourette Syndrome and Tics Guide

Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes an individual to show unusual movements or sounds in which the person has little or no control over. These movements or sounds are called tics and they may include repetitive eye blinking, jerking of the head or shoulders, coughing, clearing the throat or barking.

For most, the symptoms of Tourette syndrome usually begin between the ages of seven and ten years old but symptoms may not be present until later in life. Boys are about 4 times more likely than girls to suffer from Tourette syndrome but girls can also be affected by this disorder. Many people who suffer from Tourette syndrome won’t require treatment because the symptoms are not too disturbing or troublesome but for some, the need for treatment does arise in order to prevent disruption in normal everyday life.

Symptoms of Tourette Syndrome

The symptoms of Tourette syndrome are characterized by intermittent movements or sounds that are usually sudden and brief in scope but may range from mild to severe. These movements or sounds are known as tics and may be either simple or complex. Simple tics are sudden and brief but repetitive and will involve a limited number of muscle groups while complex tics are distinct and more coordinated patterns of movement that involved several muscle groups.

In most cases, motor related tics such as facial movement, eye blinking or other movements will begin before vocal tics do. Tourette syndrome tics range in scope and are very diverse so there is really no typical case from one patient to the next. Tics associated with Tourette syndrome will vary in type, frequency and in severity. They will usually progress or worsen during stressful periods or when an individual is suffering from anxiety or excitement.

Dr. Ira Klemons describes tics as the feeling like someone is stepping on your toe, causing pain and you know that all you have to do is move your foot and you will feel relief. Tourette syndrome causes these feelings of itchiness or pain that can easily be relieved with movement or sound (tics). Tics may be expressed as head jerking, eye blinking, yelling, throat clearing or sticking the tongue out. Additional symptoms include making obscene gestures, touching other people or flapping the arms about as a result of the tics or uncontrollable movements associated with Tourette syndrome.

Causes of Tourette Syndrome

The cause of Tourette syndrome is not known. Scientists and doctors do know that at this time there is no way to prevent Tourette syndrome. This complex neurological disorder is most likely caused by various influences both environmental and genetic.

Brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters are likely to play a role in the development of Tourette syndrome. Dopamine and serotonin are the two most likely neurotransmitters that play a role in the chemical makeup of a person with Tourette syndrome but scientists still do not know how these neurotransmitters actually affect the likelihood of an individual developing this complex neurological disorder.

Additionally, genetics do play a partial role in the likelihood of an individual developing Tourette syndrome. Scientists are still trying to determine and define the specific genes that are involved in passing down Tourette syndrome between families. One particular genetic mutation has been identified as a rare cause of Tourette syndrome but it is likely that there are other genetic factors involved with such as complex disorder.

Treatment for Tourette Syndrome

Although there is no cure for Tourette syndrome there are treatments that can help to control the tics and prevent them from interfering with everyday life and routines. For some people, the tics are not severe enough to warrant treatment but for those who have tics that are severe and that interrupt everyday activities the treatments may include medication, orthopedic devices and therapies.

There are no medications that actually cure Tourette syndrome but there are medications that may be helpful for some people. All medications come with side effects so it’s important to weight the pros and cons when thinking about taking medication for the treatment of Tourette Syndrome. The most common medications used to treat the symptoms of Tourette syndrome include botox injections, dopamine blockers, stimulants and antidepressants.

Therapy for Tourette syndrome may include psychotherapy as well as deep brain stimulation. Psychotherapy is helpful because it can reduce any accompanying problems associated with the Tourette syndrome such as ADHD, obsessions or depression and it is also effective at helping people with Tourette syndrome. Deep brain stimulation, another form of therapeutic treatment for Tourette syndrome is an effective treatment for debilitating tics that do not respond to other treatment methods.

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