May 15-June 15 is Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month

May 15-June 15 is Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month. It’s estimated that three to six out of every 1,000 children has Tourette Syndrome. Tourette Syndrome is an inherited syndrome, so if one parent has a dominant Tourette Syndrome gene, there is a 50% chance the child will develop Tourette Syndrome. Males are three times more likely to develop, and 75% of children with Tourette Syndrome develop tics before the age of 11.

What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes children, teens, and adults to make sounds and movements that they don’t want to make and cannot control. Those sounds and movements are called tics.

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What causes Tourette Syndrome?

Although it hasn’t been proven that Tourette Syndrome is an inherited disorder, genetics play a part in whether or not a child develops Tourette Syndrome. Although the specific genes involved in Tourette Syndrome haven’t been identified, a parent with a dominant gene for Tourette Syndrome is 50% more likely to pass Tourette Syndrome onto his/her child.

Brain abnormalities can also cause Tourette Syndrome. Certain chemicals in the brain that transmit nerve impulses may also play a role in whether or not a child develops Tourette Syndrome.

What are the symptoms of Tourette Syndrome?

Symptoms of Tourette Syndrome include at least two motor tics and at least one vocal tic that lasts for more than one year and begin before the age of 18. Tics usually get worse when a child is excited or stressed, and Tourette Syndrome tics usually lessen when the child is doing something calm and relaxed. Some children can stop their tics for a short time, but most can’t stop them from occurring. 

Some of the most commons types of tics are:

Simple Phonic Tics

  • Hiccuping
  • Yelling
  • Throat clearing
  • Barking

Complex Phonic Tics

  • Using different tones of voice
  • Repeating one’s own words or phrases
  • Repeating others’ words or phrases

Simple Motor Tics

  • Eye blinking
  • Head jerking
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Eye darting

Complex Motor Tics

  • Touching the nose
  • Touching other people
  • Smelling objects
  • Flapping the arms

How is Tourette Syndrome diagnosed?

Tourette Syndrome is diagnosed by a doctor. The doctor can usually diagnose Tourette Syndrome by seeing the patient’s tics or hearing about them from the patient or the patient’s parents. There is no test to confirm a Tourette Syndrome diagnosis, but some doctors will order tests to rule out other conditions that can be confused with Tourette Syndrome.

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How is Tourette Syndrome treated?

Most of the time, Tourette Syndrome tics are mild and don’t require medication. However, if tics become too much to handle, medication can be taken to lessen the tics.

Do people with Tourette Syndrome have other problems in addition to Tourette Syndrome?

Although there are no other problems that inherently pair with Tourette Syndrome, there are some common problems that individuals with Tourette’s Syndrome often deal with. 64% of children with Tourette Syndrome also deal with ADHD. Problems concentrating, hyperactivity, and poor impulse control are common symptoms of ADHD. 46% of children with Tourette’s Syndrome have behavioral problems. Behavioral problems can often manifest as aggression, anger, defiance, or socially inappropriate acts.

Is there a cure for Tourette Syndrome?

Although there is no cure for Tourette Syndrome, there are treatments that can help control tics that interfere with everyday functioning. If tics are not severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life, medication for Tourette Syndrome may not be necessary.

The prognosis for those with Tourette Syndrome is often very good. Despite there being no cure for Tourette Syndrome, the condition improves for many individuals in their late teens and early 20s. For some, this may mean the individual becomes Tourette Syndrome symptom-free, or it may mean he or she no longer needs medication to suppress his/her Tourette Syndrome tics.

Should someone with Tourette Syndrome wear a Medical ID?

Yes, those with Tourette Syndrome should wear a Medical ID and carry a wallet card. As always, medical ID jewelry can alert first responders to your health condition in the event of an emergency, but for some, it’s beneficial to wear a medical ID because it can be a more comfortable way to show others their tics stem from a disorder. 

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