Tics and Tourette Syndrome

Overview

What is Tourette syndrome?

Tourette syndrome is a type of tic disorder. Children who have Tourette syndrome will repeat both movements and sounds (called tics). Several different tics can happen at the same time, but they may not always occur together.

If a child has Tourette syndrome, the tics usually start when he or she is between 3 and 10 years of age. The movements and sounds come and go, and usually they aren’t a severe problem. It is possible for your child to have a tic but not have Tourette syndrome. Talk to your family doctor if you think your child may have a tic or Tourette syndrome.

On TV, in movies and in the news, Tourette syndrome is often associated with cursing, or making offensive sexual or racist comments. However, only a small percentage of people who have Tourette syndrome have this symptom.

What else should I know?

Many children who have Tourette syndrome also have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (also called ADHD). Children who have Tourette syndrome may also have learning disabilities or obsessive-compulsive disorder (thoughts or behaviors that are repeated over and over). Your doctor can help you find out if your child has any of these other conditions.

Symptoms

What are tics?

Tics are rapid movements or sounds that are repeated over and over for no reason. A person with a tic can’t control the movement or sounds. Throat clearing and eye blinking are common tics. Tics are often worse when a person feels stressed, tired or anxious. Some medicines can make tics worse.

If a child has Tourette syndrome, the tics usually start when he or she is between 3 and 10 years of age. The movements and sounds come and go, and usually they aren’t a severe problem. It is possible for your child to have a tic but not have Tourette syndrome. Talk to your family doctor if you think your child may have a tic or Tourette syndrome.

Will my child outgrow this?

Most tics go away after a few months. However, sometimes a person will have 1 or 2 tics for many years. Children who have Tourette syndrome usually have their worst symptoms when they are between 9 and 13 years of age. Over half of these children get much better during the teen years and in early adulthood. Less than half of the people who have Tourette syndrome as children have moderate to severe tics as adults.

Causes & Risk Factors

What causes tics and Tourette syndrome?

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes tics and Tourette syndrome. They do know that Tourette syndrome seems to run in families and affects boys more than girls.

Treatment

Is there any treatment?

Many children won’t need treatment, but some may if their tics get in the way of their daily lives. Medicines are available that can help.

No one medicine can take care of all the symptoms of Tourette syndrome completely. However, medicines are available to help reduce specific symptoms. Like most medicines, the medicines used to treat Tourette syndrome may cause side effects.

Other Organizations

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • How can I help my child fit in at school and around other kids?

  • Is there a medicine that could help my child?

  • Could my child also have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

  • Are there other therapies that could help my child?

  • Will my child have problems when he/she starts school?

  • Are there any materials you could share with me that I could give to my child’s teacher/daycare provider?

Citations

  • Recognition and Management of Tourette’s Syndrome and Tic Disorders by MM Bagheri, J Kerbeshian, L Burd( 04/15/99, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990415ap/2263.html)