What are the symptoms of Tourette Syndrome?
The defining symptoms of Tourette’s are tics. These are brief, sudden and intermittent sounds or movements, ranging from mild to severe. Severe tics have been known to significantly impact the sufferer’s communication, social life, quality of life and ability to perform daily tasks.
Tics can be divided into two categories:
- Brief, sudden and repetitive tics which are known as simple tics – these are limited to only a few muscle groups.
- Distinct and coordinated patterns which are known as complex tics – these involve a number of muscle groups.
Tics can be vocal (sound) or motor (movement). Motor tics tend to appear before vocal tics. Each patient may experience tics differently, ranging from vocal and motor tics which may also differ in their level of severity.
Before the onset of a tic, the patient is likely to experience a tingling or uncomfortable sensation in their body, this is known as a premonitory urge. This often feels like a tingle, itch or a feeling of tension. By expressing this through a tic, it brings relief to the sensation. Patients who are able to hold back or completely stop a tic, experience a great deal of difficulty in doing so.
The common simple and complex vocal (sound) tics of Tourette syndrome are as follows:
Simple vocal tics:
- Throat clearing
Complex vocal tics:
- Repeating other people’s words or phrases
- Repeating one’s own words or phrases
- Using swear (curse), vulgar or offensive words
The common simple and complex motor (movement) tics of Tourette syndrome are as follows:
Simple motor tics:
- Blinking eyes
- Jerking head
- Shrugging shoulders
- Twitching nose
- Darting eyes
- Moving mouth
Complex motor tics:
- Smelling or touching objects
- Twisting or bending
- Obscene gesturing
- Repeating movements that have been observed
- A certain pattern of stepping
Tics can also have the following factors to them:
- They may change and develop over time
- They may happen when the patient is sleeping
- They may worsen during the early adolescent years and then improve once the patient matures into adulthood
- They may worsen when the patient is stressed, tired, agitated, anxious or ill
- They may vary in severity, type and frequency
When to see a doctor
As stated, when a child with Tourette’s is roughly six years old, tics usually become apparent. Children are therefore first diagnosed with the condition around this age. The condition is then monitored and possibly treated as the child grows up. If a child experiences tics associated with display movements and sounds that are involuntary, it is best to consult with a paediatrician.
It is vital to note that not all tics are classified as Tourette syndrome. A lot of children tend to develop tics in their younger years, these seem to disappear within a few weeks or months. However, if the child is showing behaviour that is unusual on an ongoing basis, then it is important that the cause of the behaviour is identified by a medical professional in order to rule out any other possible conditions that may be more serious.