What is Tourette syndrome?
Tourette syndrome is a common neurodevelopmental disorder. This disorder causes uncontrollable, reoccurring motor and vocal tics. Tics are quick, sudden, unpredictable movements or sounds that occur repeatedly for various durations. Examples of how tics may present themselves include repetitive eye blinking or nose scrunching, unusual vocalizations such as coughs or grunts, involuntary touching, and other repetitive behaviors such as touching items in a sequence. This disorder also negatively affects social functioning, often resulting in low self-esteem and a negative self-image.
Causes and diagnosis
Tourette syndrome has been widely researched, but its cause remains unknown. Research has studied genetics and the likelihood that one is more susceptible to the disorder, frequency of the disorder within families in subsequent generations, and brain chemistry. Some research does suggest that Tourette syndrome is an inherited disorder.
To be diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, the symptoms must be present before the age of eighteen. The symptoms must also persist for at least one year even though the symptoms may come and go for brief periods of time.
Symptoms of this disorder include simple and complex motor tics that vary in severity. A simple tic may involve eye blinking or head movement, while a complex tic may include several muscles groups. For example, a complex tic may involve scrunching of the face, head movement, and shoulder shrugging, all occurring within the same episode. It is also common for other conditions to be present with Tourette syndrome. ADHD, OCD, and depression and anxiety are among the most common.
Symptoms of Tourette syndrome appear as early as between the ages of 2 and 7 and initially begin to present themselves through head tics and eye blinking. As a child gets older, the tics often become more severe and complex and peak in their early teens. The symptoms tend to subside in their late teens and early adulthood.
Even though symptoms tend to improve during late adolescence and early adulthood, the condition is considered lifelong and chronic. However, people with this condition have a normal life expectancy. Although there is no cure for this condition, there are several effective treatments and medications used to decrease the severity and occurrence of symptoms. Treatment includes relaxation techniques, music therapy, counseling, and medication used for seizures and blood pressure.