Tourettes Syndrome: Understanding Involuntary Movement and Tics

What is Tourettes Syndrome?

Tourettes syndrome is a hereditary disorder that affects the nervous system. There are varying degrees of this condition; however, Tourettes is often described as repetitive and uncontrolled body movements. Moreover, patients may also suffer from out of control verbal sounds called tics. In rare cases, patients utter tics that include vulgar or profane speech.

The symptoms of Tourettes syndrome commonly emerge prior to the age of 18 years old. However, it is possible for symptoms to begin much earlier or later in life.

Signs and Symptoms of Tourettes Syndrome

The initial symptoms of Tourettes syndrome usually consist of some sort of facial tic. Twitching or blinking of the eyes is also common. Mild twitches of the nose may gradually or suddenly progress to more noticeable movements such as repetitive head or neck jerks, foot movement, and bending. Some individuals living with Tourettes do not have involuntary movements. Instead, they suffer from vocal tics. These persons may randomly shout phrases or continually cough, bark, or shout.

Rare tics associated with Tourettes include persons repeating words spoken by other people, constantly touching others, including strangers, or harming themselves by biting or banging their heads.

The severity of symptoms will vary. Some people living with Tourettes have weeks or months where symptoms subside, whereas others must endure tics on a continuous basis.

Controlling Tourettes Syndrome

Because Tourettes involves involuntary movements, suppressing the urge to move is extremely difficult. However, some long time sufferers have learned techniques that enable them to control tics for a short period. Moreover, some people are able to identify situations which cause tics to worsen, such as times of stress and extreme fatigue.

Diagnosing Tourettes Syndome

Diagnosing Tourettes syndrome is difficult. However, physicians will likely exam all symptoms and gather information about family history. For example, does an immediate family member also suffer from Tourettes? Sometimes, Tourettes is inherited or caused by a faulty gene. Before doctors make a diagnosis of Tourettes, symptoms must be present for at least one year. Other conditions cause short-term tics and involuntary movements. Moreover, certain medications can have similar adverse effects.

To rule out other conditions, patients will likely undergo blood test and a series of brain imaging tests (MRI, CT scan, EEG).

Other Conditions Associated with Tourettes Syndrome

Although many people with Tourettes only suffer from uncontrollable tics, there is a noticeable pattern between Tourettes and other medical conditions. For example, a large number of people with Tourettes also battle obsession compulsive disorder, attention deficient disorder, learning disabilities, aggressive behavior, and insomnia.

Future Outlook for Tourettes Patients

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Tourettes. However, in many cases, the condition does improve with age. Because this condition does not interfere with thinking ability, the majority of people are able to function in social settings. Isolation is common among the group of people who suffer from uncontrollable speech outbursts. Thus, these persons may also suffer from anti-social behavior and depression.

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