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Tourette Syndrome

Alternate Names

  • Gilles de la Tourette syndrome
  • multiple tic syndrome

Definition

Tourette syndrome is an inherited disorder that causes a person to make involuntary movements and sounds.

What is going on in the body?

A person with Tourette syndrome shows no unusual behavior early in life. During the teenage years, however, he or she may begin to blink a lot and make facial grimaces or twitches, called tics.
The person may also begin to experience uncontrolled movements of the head and limbs.
Later, a person with Tourette syndrome will begin to make unusual sounds or blurt out inappropriate words. The words may be curse words and are often repeated several times.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

Many cases of Tourette syndrome occur randomly, but other cases tend to run in families. Tourette syndrome affects 1 in 2,500 males. Females are affected less frequently.
Both the genetic mechanisms of inheritance for Tourette syndrome, and the neural pathways affected by the disorder, have been studied, but neither is fully understood as yet.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the disease?

Nothing can be done to prevent Tourette syndrome.

Diagnosed

How is the disease diagnosed?

Tourette syndrome is diagnosed by a healthcare professional who takes a careful history of the symptoms. The provider may also observe the tics and other inappropriate movements or vocal sounds.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the disease?

The effects of Tourette syndrome may vary over the course of the lives of affected persons. At times, the effects may almost disappear, only to return later, as pronounced as ever. Some affected persons are able to suppress the tics and sounds for very short periods of time.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Tourette syndrome is not contagious. It is an inherited disorder that can be passed from affected persons to their children. Genetic counseling is valuable for the relatives of affected persons.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the disease?

Various medications have been tried to treat Tourette syndrome. Haloperidol (i.e., Haldol) is used most often, but pimozide (i.e., Orap) is also effective. These drugs may be used alone or with other drugs to treat specific symptoms of the disease.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Persons being treated for Tourette syndrome may be depressed or drowsy or have blurred vision. Persons may also have less control over their regular, voluntary movements.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the disease?

Symptoms return if treatment is stopped.

Monitor

How is the disease monitored?

Tourette syndrome is monitored by observation. If the syndrome is being treated with medications, the levels of the drugs in the blood are monitored by blood tests.

Sources

Buyse ML: Birth Defects Encyclopedia. Blackwell Scientific Publishers, 1990.

Goodman RM and Motulsky AG: Genetic Diseases among Ashkenazi Jews. Raven Press, 1979.

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