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Tourette Syndrome in Children

​​​​​​Tourette syndrome is a disorder in the nervous system involving sudden involuntary repetitive movements or uncontrolled sounds called tics.

Tourette Syndrome Causes

The exact cause of Tourette syndrome in children is unknown. However, it is believed that the disorder is caused by genetic and environmental factors, with dopamine and serotonin in the brain playing a role.

These signs of Tourette syndrome typically show themselves between ages 5 and 18, with males being three to four times more likely than females to have Tourette syndrome. While there is no known cure, there are treatment options available.

Symptoms of Tourette Syndrome

The main symptom of Tourette syndrome is a tic. The first type of tic usually seen is a motor tic followed by a vocal tic later on. Tics tend to be worse during times of excitement or stress and improve when a child is c​alm or focused. Even though tics may appear,​ disappear and then reappear, the conditions are still considered chronic.

Typically, tics dec​rease in adolescence and early adulthood, however, some individuals still experience tics in adulthood.


Types of Tics

There are four types of tics:

  • Vocal
  • Motor
  • Simple
  • Complex

Vocal tics are sounds made with the individual’s voice. They can include clearing the throat, sniffing, humming or yelling out words or phrases.

Motor tics are body movements. They can include shrugging, jerking or blinking.

Simple tics involve a limited number of muscle groups. They can include eye darting or blinking, nose twitching, head jerking, throat clearing or barking, to name a few.

Complex tics involve several muscle groups and can be in a coordinated pattern. They can include bending or twisting, hopping, stepping in a certain pattern, using socially unacceptable words or repeating words or phrases and more.

Treatment for Tourette Syndrome

While there is no cure for Tourette syndrome, there are treatments to help manage tics. The first of these is medication.

Medication can be used to help reduce severe tics. While it does not completely eliminate the tics, it does help those with severe tics in their everyday lives.

The second option is ​therapy. Similar to medication, the use of therapy helps to reduce the severity of tics, not eliminate them.

The third is a combination of psychiatric management and medication. Many Tourette syndrome patients experience co morbid conditions like at​tention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression and sleep difficulties and often benefit from this treatment combination.

Talk to a doctor to determine which treatment options are best for your child.

When to See a Doctor

If you suspect your child having symptoms rel​ated to Tourette syndrome, take him/her to a doctor. While not all tics are related to Tourette syndrome, it is best to err on the side of caution.​​

Caring for Children with Tourette Syndrome

Health and Safety Pediatric Neurology