What is Tourette’s Syndrome (Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome; Tics)

Tourette’s syndrome is an inherited disorder of the nervous system characterised by multiple motor and vocal tics that begins in childhood and adolescence. Tics are repetitive movements or vocalisations such as grunting, coughing, blinking, sniffing, touching the ground, or tensing the abdomen.

Statistics on Tourette’s Syndrome (Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome; Tics)

Tourette’s syndrome (TS) is a common condition, and thought to affect 3-10 people out of every 1000. This may be a conservative estimate, since many people with very mild tics may be unaware of them and never seek medical attention. Age of onset of TS is usually from 2-15 years. Tourette’s syndrome is three times as likely to occur in boys as in girls.

Risk Factors for Tourette’s Syndrome (Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome; Tics)

Though a gene for Tourette’s syndrome has not yet been identified, there is strong evidence that it is an inherited disorder transmitted through one or more genes. It is an autosomal dominant trait. TS can affect people of all ethnic groups.
There is no evidence to support the suggestion that events such as head trauma, encephalopathy or neuroleptic drugs predispose to TS.

Progression of Tourette’s Syndrome (Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome; Tics)

The severity and nature of the symptoms may wax and wane, and generally reach maximum intensity during adolescence. In most children with TS, the frequency and severity of symptoms have improved significantly by the time they reach adulthood. Whether this symptomatic improvement represents a resolution of the underlying disease pathology or improved compensatory mechanisms is not known.

How is Tourette’s Syndrome (Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome; Tics) Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome is made on clinical grounds. However certain tests, such as blood tests, EEG (scan of brain activity) and and MRI scan can help to exclude other causes of the symptoms.

Prognosis of Tourette’s Syndrome (Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome; Tics)

TS is a lifelong condition. 25% of patients may be symptom-free for periods of up to few years however only 8% of patients have complete and permanent remission. Indefinite treatment often required, however most patients can live an active normal life. An individual with TS is thought to have a 50% chance of passing the gene to their offspring.

How is Tourette’s Syndrome (Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome; Tics) Treated?

At present there are no curative treatments for TS and all treatment is symptomatic. Many people diagnosed with TS have only mild symptoms and do not require medication. If symptoms do interfere with daily life, medications are available to help control the symptoms, such as haloperidol and pimozide. Unfortunately, all medications have side effects and these need to be discussed with the doctor.
Medications are also available to treat some of the associated behavioral disorders. Stimulants such as methyphenidate, pemoline, and dextroamphetamine are usually prescribed for attention deficit disorders. Although these drugs are somewhat effective, they have also been reported to increase tics, making their use controversial.
Other therapies, such as psychotherapy and relaxation techniques may also be useful.

Tourette’s Syndrome (Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome; Tics) References

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