What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette Syndrome (TS), or Tourette’s, is a type of tic disorder. Tics are involuntary repetitive movements and/or unwanted sounds. Patients with TS experience tics of different types, including motor tics (movements), vocal tics (sounds), simple tics (involve few muscle groups), and complex tics (involve several muscle groups).

Prevalence of Tourette Syndrome

TS is not considered a rare disease. While the exact incidence of Tourette Syndrome is unknown, it is estimated to affect between 1 in 10 to 1 in 1000 children. It is about 3 to 4 times more likely to affect males rather than females. 


Tics are the hallmark characteristic of Tourette Syndrome. They range from mild to severe, with the latter significantly interfering with communication and daily life. 

Common Motor Tics 

Simple Tics

Complex Tics

Eye blinking

Touching or smelling objects

Head jerking

Repeating observed movements

Shoulder shrugging

Stepping in a certain pattern

Eye darting

Obscene gesturing

Nose twitching

Bending or twisting

Mouth movements


 *Modified from Mayo Clinic website 

Common Vocal Tics

Simple Tics

Complex Tics


Repeating one’s words or phrases


Repeated other’s words or phrases

Throat clearing

Using vulgar, obscene, or swear words



*Modified from Mayo Clinic website


While the exact cause of TS is unknown, it is a complex disorder that is likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, might play an important role. 

Current Treatments

Currently, there is no cure for Tourette Syndrome. Current methods of treatment focus on managing the tics and minimizing their effect on patient’s daily lives. These include education, medications, environment/stress management, behavioral therapy, parent training, and treatment of comorbid conditions (e.g. ADHD and OCD). However, there is a great need for new methods of treatment, and hopefully through investigational studies and clinical trials, severe tics will become manageable.  

Recommended Resources

Tourette Association of America

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. National Library of Medicine

Mayo Clinic


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