Tourette’s Syndrome (TS or Turrets), known properly as Tourette’s Syndrome, is an incurable neurological disorder affecting people across all ethnic groups. It is characterized by involuntary and unusual movements and sounds called tics. TS symptoms usually start showing up between the ages of seven and ten, and males are about three times more likely to have TS than females. Many children actually outgrow the condition after their adolescent years, during which time the symptoms tend to be most intense.
What are the Symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome?
The symptoms of TS can be either simple or complex tics. These repetitive movements and sounds can be further characterized as motor or vocal. Simple motor tics include blinking the eyes, jerking the head, eye darting, grimacing, flexing the fingers, sticking the tongue out, and shrugging the shoulders. Complex motor tics are synchronized, purposeful, and distinct movements that involve various muscle groups. These include smelling things, touching of the nose, flapping of the arms, hopping, touching other people, and can even include obscene motions. Combinations of these actions are also considered complex motor tics. These tics can even get as bad as self-injury, including actions such as hitting oneself in the face.
Simple vocal tics are things like yelling, clearing the throat, barking, and hiccupping. Complex vocal tics include repeating one’s own words and phrases and those of others (echolalia), the use of expletives, and the use of different vocal intonations.
Some individuals with TS often feel an uncomfortable sensation, such as an itch, in a particular muscle group before they demonstrate a tic. This is called a premonitory urge, and it may be necessary to perform a tic a particular number of times, or in a particular way, before this urge fades.
The symptoms of Turrets Syndrome usually get worse when the individual becomes anxious, ill, or excited. They improve when the individual partakes in focused activities that have a calming effect. Whereas the symptoms do not vanish while the person is asleep, they generally decrease significantly during sleep.
What Causes Turrets Syndrome?
At present, the specific cause of TS is unknown. Due to the complexity of the syndrome, it is possible that it is caused by both environmental and genetic factors. There is a theory that points to TS being inherited, and another that says it is as a result of abnormalities in the brain. To date, it is still not known how TS may be prevented.
Children often develop tics that may last for a short time and eventually disappear by themselves. Tics do not always point to Turrets Syndrome, but if your child begins to show strange movements, or if their behavior becomes unusual, it may be a good idea to see a pediatrician. This will help to determine whether the child has TS, and it can serve to eliminate severe health complications. Even though there is no cure for TS, it is still possible to live a normal life, and people with milder symptoms may not even need treatment.