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 Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
Norton Children’s Hospital is the pediatric teaching hospital for the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Our physicians have expertise in their fields and 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.
What is Tourette syndrome?
Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes a person to make vocalizations, movements and other tics — all 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 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-deprivation or tiredness — and drawing attention to the tics may make the tics occur more frequently.
Your child may describe an urge or premonitory sensation that causes them to feel the need to perform the tic. Many children can suppress the tics for a period of time.
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 and sound itself, the duration, what makes it better or worse, and associated symptoms are helpful in making the diagnosis. A video of the event can also help your doctor make the correct diagnosis.
In rare cases, our team may perform an electroencephalogram (EEG) to evaluate for other problems. As structural abnormalities of the brain do not cause tics, brain imaging typically is not necessary.
Tics usually are unpreventable. However, reducing stress, not drawing attention to the tics, normalizing the tics, and ensuring good rest and sleep can go a long way to improve the 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 children’s teachers be educated about your child’s 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 the tics and should be addressed as soon as the school, parent or child recognizes it.
Meet the team
Debra O’Donnell, M.D.
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