What is Tourette syndrome ?
Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by repetitive movements (motor tics) and sounds (vocal tics).
TS is generally lifelong, though specific tics tend to come and go, and severity changes over time. There are other, generally rare causes of tics, such as infection or stroke, but when no specific cause is apparent and tics fall into the pattern described above, TS is diagnosed. About one in 1000 people have TS, often in a fairly mild form.
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FOR INFORMATION ON CLINICAL STUDIES, CLICK TO MOVEMENT DISORDERS CENTER - CLINICAL TRIALS
Specialists Who Treat :
Joel S. Perlmutter, MD, Director of the Movement Disorders Center
Kevin John Black, MD
Susan Criswell, MD
Brad Racette, MD
Bradley L. Schlaggar, MD, PhD
Samer D. Tabbal, MD
What is the Washington University advantage in treating Tourette syndrome?
The Movement Disorders Center at Washington University is a multidisciplinary center staffed by movement disorder specialists, including adult and child neurologists, a neuropsychiatrist, research nurses, occupational and physical therapists, and clinical and research fellows.
This group has wide experience in diagnosing and treating people with a variety of movement-related disorders.
An advantage of the Movement Disorders Center to patients is that laboratory testing and radiology services are available within the same office complex, thus offering convenience and flexibility.
A notable advantage is the opportunity of participating in clinical trials with promising new drug regimens.
What causes Tourette Syndrome ?
From research involving family genetic histories and twins, we know that TS is inherited. However, the exact gene(s) involved have not yet been identified.
However, the presence or severity of tics can differ even between identical twins, so other factors must also be involved. Many investigators around the world are studying TS to discover what causes it and how the symptoms are generated in the brain.
What is it like to have TS?
Tics can be simple movements, such as throat clearing, eye blinking, or shoulder shrugging. Or, they can be very complex, such as touching the person next to you, walking backwards, or saying words or phrases. When people hear "Tourette Syndrome" they sometimes think of involuntarily cursing, but in fact most people with TS do not have this type of tic.
People with TS do not decide to have tics because tics are generally disruptive to their lives. However, with effort they can learn to hold them back. Think of the last time you were at the symphony or at church and you had a tickle in your throat. Maybe you could hold it back until the end of the quiet movement or the end of the prayer, but then you just had to cough or clear your throat. This is something like what it feels like to have a tic, but with TS it is happening throughout the day, every day.
What can be done about it?
Most people with TS can do fine with education about their tics, reassurance, and some instruction to their family, friends, or teachers to just not worry about it. When tics are more problematic, there are medicines and other treatments which can reduce the severity of tics.
TS has been described either as a neurologic or psychiatric disorder. These labels have nothing to do with the cause of TS, but simply relate to the fact that historically, neurologists and psychiatrists have been the main medical experts who have researched and treated TS.
Symptoms which sometimes accompany TS, such as obsessions, compulsions, impulsivity, hyperactivity or inattentiveness, are also very treatable. Treatment of TS is an area of active research at many centers around the world, including at Washington University School of Medicine Movement Disorders Center.
In addition to tics, it is fairly common for people with TS to also have recurrent intrusive thoughts, impulsivity, or significant difficulty focusing on school or work. Many people with tics lead a fairly normal life. TS does not shorten your life or cause you to lose your mind or anything of the sort. However, even people with relatively mild tics can find it a problem.
For example, one of our patients has TS mild enough that his wife was not aware of his diagnosis until recently. He has a successful professional career and good family life, but he recently told me, "it is like I am on stage 16 hours a day. Every waking moment I am trying not to tic when people are watching." Other people with TS have much more severe symptoms and occasionally the symptoms can be disabling.
For more information, visit The Movement Disorder Center