Tourette syndrome is also know as Tourette’s syndrome, Tourette’s disorder or TS. It is an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder with a childhood onset that characterized by multiple physical (motor) tics and at least one vocal (phonic) tic.
The tics usually wax and wane and can be suppressed temporarily. Tourette’s is defined as part of a spectrum of tic disorders, which includes provisional, transient and persistent tics.
Tourette’s was once thought to be a bizarre and rare disorder. It is fairly well known as the disorder where sufferers blurt out obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks. However this symptom is present only in a small minortiy of people with the disorder.
The disorder is not always correctly identified. Most cases of Tourette’s are mild and the severity of the tics generally decreases as children pass through adolescence.
Between 0.4 and 3.8 per cent of children aged five to 18 may have Tourette’s. Extreme cases of Tourette’s in adulthood is rare.
Tourette’s can be found comorbid with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). These conditions can cause more problems to the sufferer than the Tourette’s.
Tics are sudden, repetitive, nonrhythmic movements (motor tics) and utterances (phonic tics) that involve discrete muscle groups.
Tics are movements or sounds that occur intermittently and unpredictably out of a background of a normal activity.
Coprolalia is the spontaneous utterance of socially objectionable or taboo words or phrases and is the most publicized symptom of Tourette’s. Coprolalia is not required for a diagnosis of the disorder and only about 10 per cent of Tourette’s sufferers exhibit it.
Echolalia (repeating the words of others) and palilalia (repeating one’s own words) occur in a minority of cases. The most common tics are eye blinking and throat clearing.
Immediately before Tics ensue, Tourette’s sufferers are aware of an urge, similar to the need to sneeze or scratch an itch. Individuals often describe the need to tic as a buildup of tension, pressure or energy, which they release as if they had to do it, to relieve the sensation.
Individuals with tics are sometimes able to suppress their tics for limited periods of time. Doing so often results in tension or mental exhaustion.
Tics may appear up to the age of 18, but the typical onset age is from five to seven. The tics can include eye blinking, facial movements, sniffing and throat clearing.
The exact cause of Tourette’s is unknown but it is widely accepted that both genetic and environmental factors play a role.
Tourette’s may be diagnosed when a person exhibits both multiple motor tics and one or more vocal tics over the period of a year, with no more than three consecutive tic-free months. A diagnoses will be made after taking into account an individual’s symptoms and family history and after ruling out secondary causes of tic disorders.
Treatment of Tourette’s focuses on identifying and helping the individual manage the most troubling or impairing symptoms. Most cases of the disorder are mild and do not require medications. Behavioral therapy, education and reassurance may be all the treatment a sufferer needs.
There are medications available to those individuals whose symptoms interfere with functioning.