Tourette Syndrome

Tourette's syndrome is a problem with the nervous system that causes people to make sudden movements or sounds, called tics, that they can't control.


  • Tourette’s has been linked to different parts of the brain, including an area called the basal ganglia, which helps control body movements.

  • Differences there may affect nerve cells and the chemicals that carry messages between them.

  • Researchers think the trouble in this brain network may play a role in Tourette’s.

  • Doctors don’t know exactly what causes these problems in the brain, but genes probably play a role.

  • It’s likely that there is more than one cause.

  • People who have family members with Tourette’s are more likely to get it themselves.

  • But people in the same family may have different symptoms.


The main symptom is tics. Some are so mild they’re not even noticeable. Others happen often and are obvious. Stress, excitement, or being sick or tired can make them worse. The more severe ones can be embarrassing and can affect your social life or work.

There are two types of tics:

Motor tics involve movement. They include:

  • Arm or head jerking

  • Blinking

  • Making a face

  • Mouth twitching

  • Shoulder shrugging

Vocal tics include:

  • Barking or yelping

  • Clearing your throat

  • Coughing

  • Grunting

  • Repeating what someone else says

  • Shouting

  • Sniffing

  • Swearing Tics can be simple or complex. A simple tic affects one or just a few parts of the body, like blinking the eyes or making a face.

A complex one involves many parts of the body or saying words. Jumping and swearing are examples.


Your doctor may do imaging tests of your brain to rule out other conditions that have symptoms like those of Tourette’s. They might include:


It uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make pictures of organs and structures inside your body.

CT scan

It’s a powerful X-ray that makes detailed images of your insides.


Medications can include:

  • Haloperidol (Haldol), fluphenazine (Prolixin), and pimozide (Orap), which work on a brain chemical called dopamine to control tics.

  • Clonidine (Catapres) and guanfacine (Tenex, Intuniv)), high blood pressure drugs that can also treat tics.

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), and other antidepressants, which can relieve anxiety, sadness, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

Along with medicine, you may want to consider talk therapy. A psychologist or counselor can help you learn how to deal with the social issues your tics and other symptoms may cause.

Behavior therapy may also help. A specific kind, called habit-reversal training, teaches you how to recognize that a tic is coming and then move in a way that stops it.

diseases treatments disorders health prevention nervous-system

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