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Tourette Syndrome

What is Tourette syndrome?

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is an inherited neurological disorder characterized by repeated involuntary movements and uncontrollable vocal sounds called tics. In a few cases, such tics can include inappropriate words and phrases. The symptoms of TS generally appear before the individual is 18 years old. Although TS symptoms range from very mild to quite severe, the majority of cases fall into the mild category. The first symptoms of TS are usually facial tics - commonly eye blinking. With time, other motor tics may appear, such as head jerking, neck stretching, foot stamping, or body twisting and bending. It is not uncommon for a person with TS to continuously clear his or her throat, cough, sniff, grunt, yelp, bark, or shout. A person with TS may touch other people excessively or repeat actions obsessively and unnecessarily. A few patients with TS demonstrate self-harming behaviors such as lip and cheek biting and head banging. People with TS can sometimes suppress their tics for a short time, but eventually tension mounts to the point where the tic escapes. Tics worsen in stressful situations and improve when the person relaxes or is absorbed in an activity. TS is diagnosed by observing the symptoms and evaluating family history. Tics must be present for at least one year. TS is a clinical diagnosis.

Is there any treatment?

The majority of people with TS require no medication, but medication is available to help when symptoms interfere with functioning. TS medications are only able to help reduce specific symptoms. Neuroleptic and antihypertensive drugs can have long- and short-term side effects, and use of stimulants is controversial. Relaxation techniques and biofeedback may be useful in alleviating stress.

What is the prognosis?

There is no cure for TS; however, the condition in many individuals improves as they mature. Individuals with TS can expect to live a normal life span. Although TS is generally lifelong and chronic, it is not degenerative. In a few cases, complete remission occurs after adolescence.

What research is being done?

Investigators are conducting genetic linkage studies in large multigenerational families affected with TS in an effort to find the chromosomal location of the TS gene(s). Understanding the genetics of TS will directly benefit patients who are concerned about recurrence in their families and will ultimately help to clarify the development of the disorder. Investigators also are studying certain neurotransmitters to explore the role they play in the disease process and develop more effective therapies. Others are researching how environmental factors may influence the expression of the disease.


Tourette Syndrome Association
42-40 Bell Boulevard
Suite 205
Bayside, NY 11361-2820
[email protected]
Tel: 718-224-2999 888-4-TOURET (486-8738)
Fax: 718-279-9596

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
6001 Executive Blvd.
Rm. 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
[email protected]
Tel: 301-443-4513 TTY: 301-443-8431 Depression Info: 800-421-4211
Anxiety Info: 88-88-ANXIETY (269-4389) Panic Info: 888-64-PANIC (64-72642)
Fax: 301-443-4279

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
National Institutes of Health
Bldg. 31, Rm. 3C35
Bethesda, MD 20892-2320
[email protected]
Tel: 301-496-7243 TTD/TTY: 301-241-1055

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Provided by:
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892