Tourette syndrome (TS) is a disorder that causes uncontrollable body movements and sounds, called tics. Tics can vary from simple to complex. Simple tics tend to be sudden, short, less noticeable, and less frequent. Complex tics are frequent, obvious, and get in the way of communication and daily tasks. Tic types affect both movement (motor tics) and sound (vocal tics). Motor tics can cause an affected person to have repetitive eye blinking, eye twitching, shoulder shrugging, head jerking, jumping, hopping, or touching. More severe motor tics can include self-harm movements, like punching or hitting. Vocal tics can include repetitive throat clearing, sniffing, snorting, barking, grunting, and yelling, as well as repetitive words or phrases. Severe vocal tics include yelling inappropriate words, such as swearing (coprolalia), and repeating words or phrases of other people (echolalia). Some people with TS can have uncontrollable movements (spasms) of the vocal cords while speaking (spasmodic dysphonia). People with TS can also have other behavioral issues, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
The typical age of onset for TS is between 2 and 12 years. All ethnic groups can be affected, but males are affected more often than females. A family history of TS is also a risk factor. The exact cause of TS is unknown, but it is believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. TS is usually diagnosed by a health professional who is trained in diagnosing mental health conditions, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) are used to diagnose TS. Currently there is no cure for TS, but treatments to help address symptoms include both medications and therapies. If your child has been diagnosed with TS, talk to their doctor about the most current treatment options and support groups.