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Tourette’s Syndrome

The below information is purely for educational purposes and does not constitute medical advice. This content should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.

What is Tourette’s Syndrome?

A man sits on a sofa holding his head in one hand, looking frustrated and stressed
Tourette’s syndrome is a condition that is characterised by repetitive involuntary movements and/or sounds called tics. These tics serve no purpose and are typically difficult to suppress. Tics can be common during childhood, but people with Tourette’s syndrome have multiple tics that persist for more than one year.

Up to 1% of individuals may experience Tourette’s syndrome in their lifetime. It is more common in males and symptoms typically start around 6 years old.

What Causes Tourette’s?

The cause of Tourette’s syndrome is not fully known. It is likely that there is a genetic component to the syndrome as it is more common in relatives of another individual who is affected by Tourette’s.

Some studies have also shown differences in a brain signalling molecule called dopamine in people with Tourette’s syndrome. The significance of these changes or how these changes come about is unknown.

Symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome

There are several physical and verbal Tourette’s symptoms. The syndrome is characterised by repetitive, involuntary movements or sounds called by tics that last for more than one year resulting in difficulty carrying out daily activities. Examples of common Tourette’s tics include:

Motor tics

  • Blinking
  • Head turning or nodding
  • Eye rolling
  • Shoulder shrugging

Vocal tics

  • Grunting
  • Throat clearing
  • Swearing
  • Tongue clicking

Involuntary swearing is commonly associated with Tourette’s syndrome; however, it is only present in 10% of patients, meaning that its absence does not exclude diagnosis.

Tics are commonly made worse during periods of stress.

Other involuntary features may be seen in Tourette’s syndrome:

  • Copying other people’s words
  • Repeating one’s own words
  • Making obscene gestures
  • Difficulty concentrating

Tourette’s Syndrome Diagnosis

Tourette’s syndrome is diagnosed from speaking to a patient to understand their symptoms in full, however, other conditions may mimic its symptoms and it is important to rule these out with further tests if suspected.

Tourette’s Syndrome Treatment

A man is sitting, facing a laptop. He has his hands pressing against his head. He appears to be suffering from head pain.
A large proportion of treatment involves discussions with trained practitioners who can provide education and support to people with Tourette’s syndrome and their families.

Various psychological treatments can also improve symptoms for patients with Tourette’s including cognitive behavioural therapy, habit reversal training and exposure with response prevention therapy.

In addition, medication can sometimes help to reduce the frequency of tics. The most commonly prescribed medications are antipsychotics. Some patients with severe debilitating symptoms may benefit from specialist brain surgery.

Medicinal cannabis may also be considered when first line therapies have not achieved adequate symptom control.

Medicinal Cannabis and Tourette’s Syndrome

Research into the effect of medicinal cannabis on Tourette’s syndrome is limited. However, following the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes in 2018, there has been a rise in people looking towards medical cannabis. When first-line therapies have not proved effective at reducing symptoms, medical cannabis may be considered an option for Tourette’s syndrome. For further information and to find out more about medical cannabis, click here to discover more about our multi-award-winning Curaleaf Access Scheme. Alternatively, complete an eligibility assessment now. Once complete, one of our clinicians will review your application and advise whether you are eligible for progression to an appointment.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Tourette’s Syndrome

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Tourette’s syndrome likely has a genetic component as studies have shown that there is a higher risk of developing the condition if a family member also has it. However, the exact inheritance patterns of Tourette’s syndrome are still not fully understood. It is thought to be a complex genetic interplay involving multiple genes, as well as environmental factors.

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Yes, people can develop Tourette’s syndrome in adulthood. The exact cause of Tourette’s is unknown, but research suggests a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role in its development. Symptoms usually start in childhood and may change in severity over time, but symptoms can develop during adulthood too. It is important to note that not everyone who develops tics has Tourette’s; some may have transient tic disorder or another tic disorder. A medical evaluation by a healthcare professional is necessary to diagnose Tourette’s or any other tic disorder.

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Yes, it is possible to have tics without having Tourette’s syndrome. Tics are sudden, repetitive muscle movements or vocalisations, and they can occur in various conditions, such as transient tic disorder, chronic motor tic disorder, or chronic vocal tic disorder. These tic disorders involve the presence of either motor or vocal tics, but they do not meet all the diagnostic criteria for Tourette’s syndrome. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management of tics.

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Tourette’s syndrome varies greatly in its progression and severity from person to person. While there is no cure for Tourette’s syndrome, it is possible for symptoms to improve or even disappear over time. Many individuals experience a decrease in tic severity during adolescence and adulthood, and some may achieve long periods of tic remission. However, it is important to note that Tourette’s syndrome is a chronic condition, and tics can fluctuate in frequency and intensity throughout a person’s life. Ongoing management and support can greatly improve the quality of life for individuals with Tourette’s syndrome.

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Yes, Tourette’s syndrome may be considered a disability depending on its impact on an individual. The tics can range from mild to severe and can significantly impact an individual’s daily functioning, including their ability to communicate, interact with others, and participate in various activities. Many individuals with Tourette’s syndrome still lead fulfilling lives with appropriate support and accommodations.