Tourette Syndrome and Tics

Norton Children’s board-certified and fellowship-trained neurologists are the leading providers of Tourette syndrome and tic disorder care in children from Louisville, Kentucky, and Southern Indiana.

Norton Children’s Hospital is the pediatric teaching hospital for the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Our physicians are training the next generation of pediatric specialists.

We’ll determine the severity of your child’s Tourette syndrome or tic and create a treatment plan that minimizes risk, so your child can get back to being a kid again.

What Is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes a person to make vocalizations, movements and other tics involuntarily. The movements or vocalizations can range from very mild to boisterous and sometimes involve self-harm, such as slapping oneself in the face.

Tourette syndrome affects most people over a lifetime, with many symptoms exhibiting themselves strongly during the teenage years.

What Is a Tic?

Tics are sudden, repetitive, involuntary movements or sounds that can involve any part of the body. Common tics include eye blinking, nose wrinkling or sniffing, throat clearing or grunting, head turning or tilting.

Onset of tics typically occurs in school-age children. Tics are more common in boys than girls. Most children outgrow tics by the end of puberty.

The cause of tics is unknown. Researchers suspect genetic and environmental risk factors.

Many children with tics also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive behaviors and anxiety.

Certain medications — such as stimulant medications used to treat ADHD, stress, anxiety, sleep disorders or tiredness — and drawing attention to the tics may make tics occur more frequently.

Your child may describe an urge or sensation that a tic is about to occur that causes them to feel the need to perform the tic. Many children can suppress the tics for a period of time.

Diagnosis

Our team can make the diagnosis of tics based on the description of the movements and sounds that you provide.

A description of the movement or sound, duration, what makes it better or worse, and associated symptoms are helpful in making the diagnosis. A video of the event also can help your doctor make the correct diagnosis.

In rare cases, our team may perform an electroencephalogram (EEG) to evaluate for other issues in the brain. because structural abnormalities of the brain do not cause tics, brain imaging typically is not necessary.

Tourette Syndrome Treatment

Tics usually are not preventable. However, reducing stress, not drawing attention to the tics, normalizing the tics, and ensuring the child gets good rest and sleep can go a long way to improve tics and quality of life.

There are no medications that stop tics completely. If tics are causing pain or are severe, our team may prescribe medications with the goal of reducing the frequency and severity of tics.

An important aspect of treatment is addressing the psychosocial impact that tics may have on your child. Getting emotional support from family, friends, your neurologist and a psychologist or counselor can be very helpful.

It is important that your child’s teachers be educated about tics so they do not draw extra attention to the tics. They also can update you about how your child’s tics affect him or her at school. Bullying may occur as a result of tics and should be addressed as soon as the school, parent or child recognizes it.

Why Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute?

  • The Norton Children’s Hospital Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is a Level 4 epilepsy center, the highest rating available from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. Norton Children’s Hospital has held this designation since 2013.
  • We are the first in Kentucky and among the first in the nation to use neurostimulation in a pediatric patient.
  • Regional neurology care is available for children across Kentucky and Southern Indiana. We travel to clinics in Bowling Green, Campbellsville, Corbin, Elizabethtown, Frankfort, Owensboro and Paducah, Kentucky; and Evansville, Indiana. We also perform a number of telemedicine visits each week.
  • The specialists with Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, use state-of-the-art technology to treat epilepsy, uncontrollable seizures and deep brain tumors in children who, in the past, would not be candidates for surgery, including:
    • Visualase: Technology that allows neurosurgeons to perform MRI-guided laser ablation surgery. Fewer than two dozen pediatric hospitals in the U.S. offer this technology.
    • Surgical Theater: Virtual reality technology that creates an immersive 3D view of a patient’s brain, allowing neurosurgeons, the patient and family to see inside the skull and brain to get a greater understanding of the condition and impact of potential procedures. Norton Children’s Hospital is the first hospital in the region to use this technology.
  • We offer dedicated multidisciplinary clinics for brain tumors, traumatic brain injuries, spina bifida, craniofacial injuries and disorders, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, spasticity, headache/migraine, autism and neurocutaneous disorders.
  • Our multidisciplinary craniofacial program was the first established in the Midwest.
  • We offer a neurogenetics clinic to evaluate and treat children with neurogenetic syndromes.
  • We have a neuropsychology program that specializes in the evaluation of children and teens with a variety of neurological, neurodevelopmental and medical conditions, including brain tumors and epilepsy.
  • Outpatient neurology facilities in downtown Louisville are equipped with in-office electroencephalography (EEG) capabilities and laboratory services in the same building, creating a streamlined, family-centered environment.
  • We offer the region’s first clinic to treat children with immune-mediated neurological disorders.

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