Tourette Syndrome

Hayden Anderson

What is it?

Tourette Syndrome is a neurological movement disorder that is inherited. It affects between 100,000 to 200,000 people in the United States. About 1 million Americans may have very mild symptoms of TS. A person with TS makes involuntary and repeated body movements, called "tics." The tics are not always present, but may worsen with fatigue or stress.

More details

How does a person get it?

Tourette Syndrome is thought to be genetic and based upon problems with the brain's neurotransmitters. Boys are more likely to have it than girls. Most cases are diagnosed before the age of 18 and most start around age 5-7. It is not influenced by the environment.

What's going wrong?

Tourettes leads to tics, constant interruptions of body functions, like hiccuping. Eye blinking, scratching, and grunting. The basic cause of TS is not known, but it is probably caused in part by an abnormal gene that alters how the brain uses neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. A neurotransmitter is a chemical that transmits or carries a signal from one nerve cell to another.

Can we treat it?

Most patients do not need medication because their symptoms are so mild. Those who do need the medication will only dull the symptoms and not completely rid them. Often times the side effects of medication can outweigh the original problem. TS drugs are dopamine antagonists, meaning they block receptors so dopamine cannot bind to its usual spot on the nerve cells in the brain. Thus, dopamine can not pass on its signal and assert its action on the brain. Tics may be caused by dopamine receptors that are overly sensitive to dopamine in certain areas of the brain.

How does it effect the life of the patient and their family?

The life of the patient will be often disrupted but not life altering. A patient's family will not need to assist in their daily life.

Additional Information

  • Most cases start with eye blinking
  • There are vocal and motor tics
  • TS is found evenly among races
  • TS doesn't affect IQ
  • TS doesn't have a full cure