Tourette’s Syndrome and Tic Disorders

Tourette's syndrome is a common childhood-onset hereditary neurological and behavioral disorder. It is characterized by the presence of both motor and vocal tics. Tics are sudden, rapid, repetitive, non-rhythmic, intermittent movements or movement fragments that are almost always briefly suppressible and are usually associated with awareness of an urge to perform the movement. The tics in Tourette's syndrome can be simple or complex. Tourette's syndrome is also associated with several psychiatric disorders. The most common of these are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In some instances, these psychiatric disorders may impact quality of life more than the tics themselves.

The severity of this disease varies from patient to patient. While some patients have a very mild form of Tourette's syndrome, many of them may have it severe enough to interfere with their ability to participate in school and other important activities of childhood and adulthood. The cause of Tourette's syndrome is unknown, and the genetic basis of this disease also remains a mystery.

In addition to Tourette’s syndrome, there are other related tic disorders. These include transient tic disorders that last less than a year, and chronic tic disorders that may consist of simple or complex motor tics, or vocal tics. These tic disorders commonly have onset in childhood but may also have onset in adulthood. Other tics may be a consequence of medications.

Diagnosis

The diagnoses of Tourette's syndrome and tic disorders are made by an expert clinician, typically a psychiatrist or neurologist, and is based on the patient's clinical history and physical exam. There are no diagnostic laboratory tests, brain imaging, or genetic screening tests for this disease. 

Treatment

There are several medical treatments for Tourette's syndrome, including clonidine, guanfacine, dopamine antagonist agents, and other medications which may be helpful in controlling tics and their related behavioral disorders. However, these medication treatments may have unwanted side effects and may only provide partial relief. Newer treatments are currently under investigation, including the use of deep brain stimulation.

Why Choose Emory?

Emory provides a full spectrum of treatment for Tourette's syndrome and tic disorders. This includes medication management, neurosurgical management including deep brain stimulations, therapeutic procedures including botulinum toxin therapy, rehabilitation services such as physical and occupational therapy, and psychologic/psychiatric care. Psychotherapy such as Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) and Habit Reversal Therapy (HRT) are provided through close relationships with community providers. Emory participates in the latest research in Tourette's syndrome including clinical trials. Emory is honored to be a Tourette Association Center of Excellence for care of Tourette's syndrome and tic disorders, and continues to work with the Tourette Association of America to provide patient support and advocate for patients with Tourette's syndrome and tics in the local community.