- Tourette syndrome is a genetic inherited neurological disorder, which means it can be passed on from birth parents to their children.
- Signs of Tourette syndrome usually begins between 2 and 21 years of age.
- It causes people to make involuntary and uncontrollable vocal sounds and movements called tics.
- People with movement tics can find themselves jerking their head, stretching their neck, stamping their feet, and twisting and bending. People with vocal tics might clear their throat, cough, sniff, click their tongue, grunt, yelp, bark or shout.
- There is no cure for Tourette syndrome, but treatment with medicines can improve symptoms.
What is Tourette syndrome?
Tourette syndrome is a genetic inherited neurological disorder, which means it can be passed on from birth parents to their children. It causes people to make involuntary and uncontrollable vocal sounds and/or movements. These are called tics.
The signs of Tourette syndrome usually begin between 2 and 21 years of age. There is no cure for Tourette syndrome, but it usually improves as you get older. Some people find the tics go away as they enter adulthood. Tourette syndrome does not shorten your life span.
What are the symptoms of Tourette syndrome?
Tourette syndrome symptoms are usually mild, but can sometimes be severe.
One set of symptoms is known as motor tics. If you have motor tics, you may:
- jerk your head
- stretch your neck
- stamp your feet
- twirl about
Some people may bite themselves or hurt themselves in other ways or find it necessary to repeatedly touch other people and things.
Another set of symptoms is known as vocal tics. If you have vocal tics you might:
- clear your throat
- click your tongue
- bark or shout
Some people also swear or repeat certain sounds or phrases.
Tics can be classified as ‘simple’ or ‘complex’. Simple motor tics may include smaller movements such as blinking or shoulder shrugging, while complex tics involve larger movements such as jumping. Similarly, simple vocal tics may include sniffing or throat clearing, while complex vocal tics may involve uttering or repeating words or phrases.
If you have Tourette syndrome, you might be able to stop your tics for a short time, but this builds up tension until the tic ‘escapes’.
Tics worsen with stress and improve with relaxation, or when you are absorbed in a particular activity.
Tourette syndrome doesn’t affect your intelligence.
How is Tourette syndrome diagnosed?
There is no medical test that can diagnose Tourette syndrome. To diagnose Tourette syndrome, a doctor will observe your symptoms and talk with you about when your symptoms began. Your doctor may order various medical tests to rule out other medical conditions that could be confused with Tourette syndrome.
How is Tourette syndrome treated?
Tourette syndrome can be treated with medicine, which helps reduce your symptoms. Unless symptoms interfere with your life, most people don’t need treatment or medicine.
Relaxation techniques can help you reduce stress, which can reduce the frequency and severity of tics.
What are the complications of Tourette syndrome?
Tourette syndrome can cause problems with daily life, including:
Resources and support
You can get support from the Tourette Syndrome Association of Australia. You can also find out more about genetic conditions in general and about genetic counselling.
Call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 at any time to speak to a registered nurse (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) for more information and advice.
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Last reviewed: January 2023