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Tourette Syndrome

What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. The disorder is named for Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, the pioneering French neurologist who in 1885 first described the condition in an 86 years old French noblewoman.

The early symptoms of TS are typically noticed first in childhood, with the average onset between the ages 3 and 9 years. TS occurs in people from all ethic groups; makes are affects about three to four times more often than females. It is estimated that 200,000 Americans have the most severe form of TS, and as many as 1 in 100 exhibt milder and less complex symptoms such as chronic motor or vocal tics. Although TS can be a chronic condition with symptoms lasting a lifetime, most people with the condition experience their worst tic symptoms in their early teens, with improvement occuring in the late teens and continuing into adulthood.

Source: "Tourette Syndrome Fact Sheet," NINDS. Publication date January 2012. NIH Publication No. 12-2163

What are the symptoms?

Tics are classified as either simple or complex. Simple motor tics are sudden, brief, repetitive movements that involve a limited number of muscle groups. Some of the more common simple tics include eye blinking and other eye movements, fascial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking. Simple vocalizations might include repetitive throat- clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds. Complex tics are distinct, coodinated patterns of movements involving several muscle groups. Complex motor tics might include facial grimacing combined with a head twist and a shoulder shrug. Other complex motor tics may actually appear purposeful, including sniffing or touching objects, hopping, jumping, bending, or twisting. Simple vocal tics may include throat- clearing, sniffing/ snorting, grunting, or barking. More complex vocal tics include words or phrases. Perhaps the most dramatic and disabling tics include motor movements that result in self-harm such as punching oneself in the face or vocal tics including symptoms that range from mild to severe, but most cases are mild. They can occur suddenly, and the length of time the last can vary. Tics may temporarily decrease with concentration or distraction. During times of stress, they may occur more often.

Many people with TS also have one or more of the following:

- Obessions

- Compulsions and ritualistic behaviors

- Attention deficit disorder with, or without hyperactivity (ADD or ADHD)

- Learning disabilities

- Difficulties with impulse control

- Sleep disorders

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