Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological condition (affecting the brain and nervous system) that is characterised by a combination of involuntary noises and movements called tics.

The syndrome usually starts during childhood and continues into adulthood. It often runs in families and is often associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (see below).

Tourette’s syndrome is named after the French doctor, Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who first described the syndrome and its symptoms in the 19th century.

Tics can be:
•vocal (sounds) - such as grunting, coughing or shouting out words
•physical (movements) - such as jerking of the head or jumping up and down

They can also be:
•simple - making a small movement or uttering a single sound
•complex - making a series of physical movements or speaking a long phrase

Most people diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome have a combination of physical and vocal tics, which can be both simple and complex.

The tics do not usually pose a serious threat to a person's overall health, although physical tics, such as jerking of the head, can often be painful. However, children and adults with Tourette’s syndrome may experience associated problems, such as social isolation, embarrassment and low self-esteem.

What causes Tourette's syndrome?
The cause of Tourette’s syndrome is unknown. However, it is thought to be linked to problems with a part of the brain known as the basal ganglia, which helps regulate body movements.

In people with Tourette’s syndrome, the basal ganglia 'misfires', resulting in the characterisitc tics.

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