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Everything You Need to Know About Tourette Syndrome

Updated on April 5, 2020

Tourette Syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system that leads to repetitive and uncontrolled movements and sounds. These are known as motor and vocal tics. It usually affects children between the ages of 2 and 15 years. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 0.3% children in the US, between 6 and 17 years of age, were diagnosed with this condition. Out of them, 37% had either severe or moderate symptoms.

Tourette Syndrome can often affect the mental, emotional and physical well being of a child. As a responsible parent, learn more about this condition before visiting a pediatric neurologist near you.

Symptoms of Tourette Syndrome

The most obvious symptom of this syndrome is both simple and complex tics. In simple motor tics, the physical movements are sudden and brief. These include blinking eyes, twitching nose, shrugging shoulders, darting eyes and jerking of the arms or head.

In complex motor tics, there are coordinated patterns of movement. Obscene gestures, bending and twisting, repeated observed movements and hopping are common.

In vocal tics, grunting, shouting, throat clearing, barking and coughing, along with repeating words, are common.

Causes of Tourette Syndrome

Although the exact cause is unknown, the syndrome has been associated with changes in the dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. Any disruptions in these chemicals, which transmit nerve impulses, might lead to this condition. Tourette Syndrome is also linked with problems in the basal ganglia, which are responsible for physical movements. Genes and family history also play a significant role in this syndrome. However, it is important to remember that people in the same family might suffer from different symptoms.

Diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome

The diagnosis is always based on the signs and symptoms. The doctor might also perform the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:

  • MRI: Radio waves and powerful magnets together take pictures of the brain to check for deformities.
  • CT Scan: This is a computerized scan to take cross-sectional images of the body. These are more detailed and can show the images of bones, blood vessels and tissues clearly.

Apart from these, get in touch with a pediatric neurologist near you to get blood tests done.

Treatment of Tourette Syndrome

Most often, the symptoms of Tourette are mild and do not require any medical intervention. Severe symptoms have no permanent treatment and can only be controlled through medicines.

Botox Injection

The affected muscles are injected with Botox to help relieve simple vocal tics.

Medicines to Lower Dopamine

Certain medicines might be prescribed to control the tics by reducing the dopamine levels in the brain. However, make sure you stay alert while the child is on medication because a few might cause mild depression.

Antidepressants

Certain symptoms of Tourette Syndrome can include psychological disorders, such as OCD, anxiety and frequent sadness. These can be effectively controlled with medication.

As the child grows older, the tics tend to improve. If you are embarrassed due to uncontrolled movement, consider coping up with the help of support groups. You can also ask the pediatric neurologist near you for tips to cope with the symptoms.

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