Tourette's Syndrome

Tourette syndrome is a complex problem with the nerves and cells that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Tourette syndrome causes involuntary repetitive movements or sounds, or tics. Treatment for Tourette syndrome focuses on controlling tics and can include behavioral therapy, medication or implantable devices.

What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette syndrome is a nervous system disorder that often begins in childhood and results in a person making sudden, brief repetitive movements or sounds (tics) that can’t easily be controlled. Tics can worsen when a person is ill, stressed or tired. Tics also come and go over time and can vary in type, frequency and severity.

Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care of patients with neurological disorders and the diagnosis, management and treatment of Tourette syndrome. Our 24/7 inpatient neurology and neurosurgery services, as well as our outpatient services, Home Health, physical, occupational, speech and cognitive therapy services are available to help treat people with Tourette syndrome. In addition, we have the region’s only advanced 3Tesla MRI, MRI spectroscopy and functional MRI, to accurately diagnose and optimally treat all manner of neurologic disease including Tourette syndrome.

You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.

Signs and Symptoms

Tics, the sudden, intermittent, involuntary movements or sounds, are the most common symptom of Tourette syndrome. Tics can be simple or severe and include both movement and sounds. People with Tourette syndrome typically experience a sensation like an itch, tingle or tension before the tic begins. The tic stops the sensation.

Motor tics are involuntary, repetitive movements that can include:

  • Arm or head jerking
  • Blinking
  • Mouth twitching
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Making faces

Vocal tics can include:

  • Barking or yelping
  • Throat clearing
  • Grunting
  • Repeating what someone says
  • Shouting
  • Sniffing
  • Swearing


Tics can be caused by conditions other than Tourette’s syndrome. If Tourette’s syndrome is suspected, your physician will do a thorough physical to rule out other causes like another condition or reaction to medication. To determine if someone has Tourette syndrome, we use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Diagnostic procedures can include:

Blood test: Blood tests can help rule out other conditions.
CT scan: X-rays and computers are used to create images of the brain. This provides a more detailed picture than an ultrasound.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A large magnet, radio waves and a computer are used to produce detailed pictures of the brain.


Tourette syndrome is a complex condition and the exact cause is unknown. Research indicates it is likely caused by a combination of inherited and environmental factors that affect certain areas of the brain.

Risk Factors

Risk factors that could contribute to Tourette syndrome include:

Family history: People with a family history of Tourette syndrome or other tic disorders have an increased risk for Tourette syndrome.
Being male: Males are more likely than females to develop Tourette syndrome.


Tourette syndrome is not a preventable condition.


Tourette syndrome is not a degenerative condition and can be controlled with medication. Some people experience improvement in the late teens and become symptom-free.

Treatment and Recovery

Treatment is focused on controlling the tics that interfere with activities of daily living.


Medications can be prescribed to help control the tics, increase attention and concentration, control impulses and alleviate depression and anxiety.


Different therapies can help a person control behavior and cope with stress.

Surgical Devices

Some types of tics can be controlled with implantation of devices. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a procedure that implants electrodes into the brain which send programmed electrical impulses to the area of the brain affected by the disorder.


Sometimes, Tourette syndrome is associated with other conditions, including:

  • Learning disabilities including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Pain related to tics, especially headache

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