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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Tourette syndrome

*


* Not a rare disease
Other Names for this Disease
  • Gilles de la Tourette's syndrome
  • Tourette disorder
  • Tourette's syndrome
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Symptoms


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What are the signs and symptoms of Tourette syndrome?

The early symptoms of Tourette syndrome are almost always noticed first in childhood, with the average onset between the ages of 7 and 10 years.[1] Although the symptoms of Tourette syndrome vary from person to person and range from very mild to severe, the majority of cases fall into the mild category.[2]

The repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called 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 vision irregularities, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking. Simple vocalizations might include repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds.[1]

Complex tics are distinct, coordinated 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 coprolalia (uttering swear words) or echolalia (repeating the words or phrases of others). Some tics are preceded by an urge or sensation in the affected muscle group, commonly called a premonitory urge. Some individuals with Tourette syndrome will describe a need to complete a tic in a certain way or a certain number of times in order to relieve the urge or decrease the sensation.[1]

Tics are often worse with excitement or anxiety and better during calm, focused activities. Certain physical experiences can trigger or worsen tics, for example tight collars may trigger neck tics, or hearing another person sniff or throat-clear may trigger similar sounds. Tics do not go away during sleep but are often significantly diminished.[1]

Last updated: 4/21/2011

References
  1. Tourette Syndrome Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). 2010 ; http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tourette/detail_tourette.htm. Accessed 2/24/2010.
  2. What is Tourette Syndrome?. Tourette Syndrome Association. 2010; http://www.tsa-usa.org/Medical/whatists.html. Accessed 2/24/2010.