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Tourette Syndrome & Tic Disorders Information

  • Tics are sudden, repetitive, stereotyped, nonrhythmic, involuntary movements (motor tics) and utterances (phonic tics) that involve discrete muscle groups. Tourette syndrome is one of several tic disorders, which are classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) according to type (motor or phonic tics) and duration (transient or chronic). Transient tic disorder consists of multiple motor tics, phonic tics or both, with duration of at least 4 weeks, but less than 12 months. Chronic tic disorder is either single or multiple, motor or phonic tics, but not both, which are present for more than a year...
  • Tourette's disorder is diagnosed when multiple motor tics, and at least one phonic tic, are present for more than a year. Although Tourette's is the more severe expression of the spectrum of tic disorders, most cases are nonetheless mild. There is a wide range of severity of symptoms in persons with Tourette syndrome, and mild cases may be undetected.

    A large, community-based study suggested that over 19% of school-age children have tic disorders. The children with tic disorders in that study were usually undiagnosed. (Kurlan) As many as 1 in 100 people may experience some form of tic disorder. (NIH) Tourette syndrome is the more severe expression of a spectrum of tic disorders, which are thought to be due to the same genetic vulnerability. Nevertheless, most cases of Tourette syndrome are not severe. Although a good body of investigative work indicates genetic linkage of the various tic disorders, further study is needed to confirm the relationship.

    Tourette syndrome (also called Tourette's syndrome, Tourette's disorder, Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, GTS or the more common Tourette's or TS) is an inherited neurological disorder with onset in childhood, characterized by the presence of multiple motor tics and at least one phonic tic, which characteristically wax and wane. Tourette syndrome is defined along a spectrum of tic disorders, which includes transient tics and chronic tics.

    Tourette syndrome was once considered a rare and bizarre syndrome, most often associated with coprolalia, which is present in fewer than 15% of persons with Tourette's. It is no longer considered a rare condition, but the condition may not be identified because of the wide range of severity, with most cases classified as mild. The precise cause of Tourette syndrome is not known and the genes have not been identified, but genetic and environmental factors each play a role.

    People with Tourette's have normal life expectancy and intelligence. Notable individuals with Tourette syndrome are found across many professions and in all walks of life. The severity of the tics decreases for most children as they pass through adolescence, and extreme Tourette's in adulthood is a rarity. Medication is not needed for most cases. Although no medication is effective for all persons with tics, there are medications and therapies that can help when their use is warranted. Understanding, knowledge about the condition, and a supportive family and community are the best treatments.

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