Tourette Syndrome

What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological condition that is part of the spectrum of tic disorders. These tics come in the form of movements or vocalizations that the sufferer makes repeatedly and involuntarily.

What causes it?

The syndrome has been subject to medical attention for hundreds of years, although hasn’t always been well understood. Suggested causes have included toxins, psychological factors and infections, however, the exact reasons for the syndrome are unknown. It has been observed that TS is more common in boys than in girls.

Some experts claim that the metabolism of the brain chemical dopamine, and possibly other brain chemicals, is responsible, according to the BBC.

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Genetics, however, do have an affect on the disorder. A child whose parent is a TS sufferer has a one in two chance of inheriting the gene, the news provider claims. This child may experience the same symptoms as their parent, different symptoms or none at all.

Gilles de la Tourette discovered the condition in 1885

What are the symptoms?

The onset of the condition happens in childhood (between 1 and 10 in 1,000 children are diagnosed with TS), according to Paul J. Lombroso and Lawrence Scahill of Yale University, beginning with small tics such as facial movements. However, this can progress to more complex bodily movements or a succession of tics. This is followed by vocal tics, which can be as simple as clearing of the throat. A minority – 20% – are reported to move on to loud, complex phrases, swearing, or repeating what other people say. In around half of TS patients, most symptoms disappear by the age of 18, Tourettes Action reports.

Tics can change, worsen or get better over time. They are also often intensified by stress and anxiety.

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The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke points out that TS is often accompanied by other neurological disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive behaviour, which is often repetitive also.

How is it diagnosed?

A diagnosis is usually made by a doctor when the patient displays both physical and vocal tics, which persist over the course of one year. Some may use certain blood testing and MRI, CT or EEG scans to make sure the condition is not confused with another neurological disorder such as autism or epilepsy.

How is it treated?

There is no known cure for TS, though most sufferers are able to manage their tics and lead a normal life. Usually, patients do not require medication to do this, but there is a variety available for those who feel their tics are making everyday life difficult.

Who has it?

Celebrities who suffer from TS include actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd.

Celebrities who suffer from associated disorder ADHD include actors Bill Cosby and Jim Carrey, singer Beth Ditto, chef Jamie Oliver and actor-comedian Will Smith.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

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