Laurie Rosenblum, MPH
Tourette syndrome (TS) is a chronic disorder of the nervous system. It is a type of tic disorder, with motor and vocal tics. These tics are rapid, involuntary movements or sounds that occur repeatedly.
Many people with TS also have one or more of the following problems:
The exact cause of TS is unknown. However brain chemicals, called dopamine and serotonin, are most likely involved.
There may be a genetic link to TS, although some have no known family history.
Males are 3-4 times more likely to be affected. Other factors that may increase your chance of TS include:
Tics are the main symptoms of TS. To be TS, the tics must be involuntary and:
Tics will usually happen daily, range from mild-to-severe and change in type over time. They can occur suddenly and vary in the amount of time that they last. Tics may temporarily decrease with concentration or distraction. During times of stress and tension, they may occur more often.
Tics are divided into motor and vocal. The following are some common examples:
While tics may occur throughout life, but symptoms may improve during later teen years.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
The diagnosis of TS is usually made by the symptoms alone. Your doctor may order tests to rule out other medical conditions as the cause of the tics.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Education and therapy are usually parts of the treatment plan. In some cases, medications may be needed.
Learning about TS is a very important part of treatment. Education can also be helpful for your family, friends, and coworkers.
Therapy can also help you develop habits to help manage tics or other related symptoms. Types of therapy include:
In addition, relaxation, biofeedback, and exercise can reduce help to reduce stress.
Medication is not required in most cases. No medication works in all people with TS. If a doctor prescribes medication, there are usually strong side effects.
Medications that may be prescribed include:
There are no current guidelines to prevent TS.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Tourette Syndrome Association
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada
NINDS tourette syndrome information page.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
Updated October 19, 2012. Accessed April 3, 2013.
Tourette syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114495/Tourette-syndrome. Updated June 10, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
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