Tourette syndrome is a disorder that makes people experience uncontrollable movements and vocal sounds known as tics. It usually surfaces in early childhood and increases in adulthood. Tics can be mild or severe. Approximately 200,000 individuals in the U.S. are victims of Tourette syndrome, and medication and therapy can help alleviate tics.
Causes Of Tourette Syndrome
Tourette’s has been associated with various parts of the brain, such as an area known as the basal ganglia, which controls body movements. Changes there may affect nerve cells and the chemicals transporting messages between them. Researchers believe the issue in this brain network may result in Tourette’s.
Doctors are uncertain what causes these problems in the brain, but genes could be responsible. It can be inherited from parent to offspring; however, people in the same family may experience different symptoms.
Symptoms Of Tourette Syndrome
The two symptoms of Tourette syndrome are simple or complex motor tics, which may be very mild or severe; however, most cases are mild.
🔸 Simple Tics
Simple tics are common and occur before complex tics. They are quick, brief, repetitive movements with a few muscle groups.
Simple motor tics occur as eye blinking and other eye movements, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking. Meanwhile, simple vocal tics appear as repetitive throat clearing, sniffing, barking, and grunting.
🔸 Complex Tics
Complex tics are unique, coordinated movement patterns that include various muscle groups in different body parts.
Complex motor tics occur as facial grimacing is coupled with a head twist and a shoulder shrug. Complex motor tics like sniffing or touching an object, hopping, jumping, bending, and twisting may seem deliberate.
Complex vocal tics include repeating one’s words or phrases, repeating others’ words or phrases (echolalia), and using vulgar, obscene or swear words (coprolalia).
Common dramatic and disabling tics may involve motor movements that cause self-harm, like punching yourself in the face, or vocal tics, like echolalia or swearing. Some tics are due to an urge or sensation in the affected muscle group (a premonitory urge).
The feeling of completing a tic in a particular way or a specific number of times to relieve the urge or reduce the sensation may occur.
Diagnosis Of Tourette Syndrome
Healthcare providers can diagnose a tic disorder patient with a history of such tic before the age of 18. Also, the person must have been experiencing motor and vocal tics (both) for over a year.
No blood test or imaging exam is needed to diagnose Tourette syndrome. Your healthcare provider will only review your medical history and symptoms and ask specific questions concerning the tics, such as:
How often do you experience the tics?
At what age did it begin?
Is it a simple or complex tic?
Moreover, the healthcare provider may conduct tests to eliminate other conditions responsible for the tics.
Treatments For Tourette Syndrome
Mild tics that don’t disrupt daily activities might not require treatment. Yet, severe tics can negatively affect our actions at work, school, or social situations. Some tics even cause self-injury. In these situations, medication or behavioral therapy comes in handy.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe neuroleptics and drugs for reducing dopamine (a chemical that can boost tics) in the brain for Tourette syndrome.
✅ Behavioral Therapy
The tics related to Tourette’s are involuntary, making them uncontrollable. However, new therapies support people to manage tics and alleviate their harm. Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) enables people to:
- Respond to tics: Trying a new and different action during a tic is a “competing response.” For example, voluntarily shutting your eyes reduces the involuntary movement of blinking.
- Identify tics: Sometimes, people can sense a tic about to happen, known as a premonitory urge. By identifying this urge, they can mask or reduce the tic.
- Reduce tics: Excitement or anxiety worsens tics. Being calm and avoiding stressful situations may alleviate the frequency of tics.
Tourette’s syndrome is a problem with the nervous system that causes people to make sudden movements or sounds, called tics, that they can’t control. For example, someone with Tourette’s might blink or clear their throat repeatedly.
Some people may yell out words they don’t intend to say. Healthcare professionals can diagnose it, and although there is no cure, they can treat it with medication and behavioral therapy.