Tourette Syndrome

Tourette syndrome is a medical condition of the nervous system that usually begins in childhood. It is characterized by tics, which are uncontrollable, rapid and repetitive movements or sounds.

Boys are three times more likely to develop Tourette syndrome than girls. Symptoms usually begin around the age of seven, intensify during the teen years, and decrease around age 20. While there is no cure, symptoms can be controlled and there is a normal life span associated with the condition.

Before tics happen, a child may feel an uncomfortable sensation like an itch, tension or tingling. This is known as a premonitory urge. Tics can occur during in sleep and get worse during illness, stress or when someone is tired or excited. They may improve or lessen when the child is concentrating on a specific activity such as homework.

Types of Tics

Simple motor tics: Sudden, repetitive motions of that last for a short while and affect one muscle group, including:

  • Blinking or darting of eyes
  • Facial grimacing
  • Head jerking
  • Tongue protrusion
  • Shrugging of shoulder
  • Finger flexing

Complex motor tics: Involves several different parts of the body and can have a pattern. It usually includes more than one of these at the same time:

  • Obscene gestures
  • Touching other people or constant touching of nose
  • Smelling objects
  • Arm flapping
  • Hopping
  • Squatting
  • Twirling

Simple vocal tics: Involves individual sounds, including:

  • Yelling
  • Barking
  • Throat clearing
  • Hiccupping

Complex vocal tics: Involves full speech and language, including:

  • Repeating words and phrases of others
  • Repeating one’s own words
  • Voicing obscene or vulgar words
  • Using a variety of voice tones

There are two additional types of tics, which occur much less commonly:

  • Phantom tics: Feels a sensation in other people or objects which is relieved only by touching or scratching them
  • Sensory tics: Repetitive uncomfortable sensations in the eyes, throat or shoulders. May also feel temperature or pressure changes or a tickling