Tourette syndrome – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Tourette’s syndrome.

Tourette’s syndrome is a disorder that causes uncontrollable movements and vocal sounds called tics. It often shows up in early childhood and improves in adulthood. Tics can be mild or severe. About 200,000 people in the U.S. have a severe form of Tourette syndrome.

In the article, you will find what is Tourette syndrome, what are Tourette’s syndrome causes, what are the symptoms of Tourette syndrome, and finally how to treat Tourette syndrome traditionally and naturally.

Tourette syndrome facts

A tic is an unexpected, repetitive, non-rhythmic mechanical movement or phonation involving distinct muscle groups. Tics may be invisible to the viewer, such as abdominal tension or crunching toes. Common motor and phonic tics are blinking of the eyes and clearing of the throat, respectively.

It is named by Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who first described the disorder in 1885. The English author Samuel Johnson may have suffered from a form of the disorder, based on contemporary descriptions of his facial tics and of the strange vocalizations interrupting his normal speech.

The onset of Tourette syndrome usually occurs between the ages of 2 and 15 and continues into adulthood. Motor tics precede phonic tics in about 80 percent of the cases. Individuals with milder forms of the disorder may exhibit either motor or phonic tics but not both.

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder that affects the brain and nerves. TS causes a person to make sudden movements or sounds called “tics.” Tics are involuntary, so you can’t control or prevent them. Motor tics involve body movements, like shoulder shrugging. Vocal tics involve the voice, like throat clearing. Motor tics tend to develop before vocal tics.

Tourette syndrome, or Tourette’s, usually develops in early childhood. It often improves as you become an adult. Tourette syndrome is the most severe type of tic disorder.

What is Tourette's syndrome

Causes of tics syndrome

The exact Tourette’s syndrome causes are unknown, but it appears to stem from a problem in the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that is responsible for involuntary movements, emotion, and learning.

Experts believe that abnormalities in the basal ganglia may be one of Tourette’s syndrome causes, which is an imbalance in levels of brain neurotransmitters, it transfers messages from one cell to another. Abnormal neurotransmitter levels may disrupt normal brain function, resulting in tics. Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and other neurologic conditions affect the basal ganglia.

Another Tourette’s syndrome cause is hereditary. A person who has a close family member with a tic is more likely to have one, too. It also appears to be more common in infants who are born preterm.

Genetics of Tourette syndrome

Another theory is that a childhood illness may trigger tics. Infection with group A streptococcal bacteria has been linked with symptoms of Tourette’s. It may be that the bacteria cause the immune system to produce antibodies that interact with brain tissue, and this brings about changes in the brain.

Tourette syndrome symptoms

Tics are the main Tourette syndrome symptom. They usually start between ages five and seven, peaking around age 12.

Tics are complex or simple:

  • Complex tics involve many movements and muscle groups. Jumping is a complex motor tic. Repeating certain words or phrases is a complex vocal tic.
  • Simple tics are quick, repeated movements that only involve a few muscle groups. Shoulder shrugging is a simple motor tic. Sniffing is a simple vocal tic.

Tourette syndrome symptoms

Other Tourette syndrome signs are:

  • Arm jerking.
  • Bending at the waist.
  • Eye blinking.
  • Head jerking or twisting.
  • Jaw movements.
  • Twisted or distorted facial expressions.

Tourette’s syndrome treatment

Tourette’s syndrome treatment approach depends on the severity of the symptoms and the initial cause of the syndrome. Mild tics that don’t affect everyday activities might not need treatment. However, severe tics can make it hard to function at work, school, or in social situations. Some tics even lead to self-injury. In these cases, medication, herbs, acupuncture, behavioral therapy may help.

Tourette syndrome medication – most common form of Tourette’s syndrome treatment

There is no cure for Tourette syndrome; though symptoms may improve with age. Tourette syndrome medications are used only when symptoms interfere with functioning. Tourette syndrome medication may include antihypertensives, muscle relaxants, or neuroleptics.

Antihypertensives are one of the medications for tics that are normally used to control high blood pressure or hypertension, but they may help patients with mild to moderate symptoms of Tourette’s, possibly by regulating neurotransmitter levels. One example is Clonidine. Side effects include diarrhea or constipation, dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.

Muscle relaxants help control physical tics by treating spasticity when muscles become too stiff. Examples include baclofen and clonazepam. Side effects include drowsiness and dizziness. Patients taking muscle relaxants should not consume alcohol, and they may not be able to drive or use heavy machinery.

Neuroleptics are another tics medications that block the effects of dopamine in the brain. They may be taken orally or by injection. They can treat moderate to severe symptoms. Some slow-release neuroleptics are injected only once every 2 to 6 weeks.

Adverse effects may include drowsiness, blurred vision, dry mouth, low libido, shaking, spasms, twitches, and weight gain. Some neuroleptics have more adverse effects than others. If side effects are becoming a problem, the patients should tell their doctor. There may be other neuroleptics they could take.

Behavioral therapy for Tourette syndrome – common Tourette’s syndrome treatment

The tics associated with Tourette syndrome are involuntary, so they aren’t something you can control. But new therapies help people manage tics and reduce their negative effects.

Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) helps people:

  • Respond to tics: Doing a new and different action when a tic occurs is a “competing response.” A voluntary action (shutting your eyes) limits the involuntary action (blinking).
  • Recognize tics: Sometimes people feel a sensation right before a tic occurs called a premonitory urge. By recognizing this urge, they may be able to mask or suppress the tic.
  • Reduce tics: Excitement or anxiety tend to make tics worse. Staying calm and avoiding stressful situations may reduce the frequency of tics.

Acupuncture for Tourette’s syndrome – an ancient Chinese Tourette’s syndrome treatment

Acupuncture is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine that dates back thousands of years. It is defined as fine needles piercing into the acupoints based on traditional Chinese medicine theory.

In a small study, Chinese researchers found acupuncture to have an effective rate of 97.1% in the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome. Their conclusion was that acupuncture is a “very effective therapy for TS.” While parents and children alike may hesitate to try acupuncture, it is a safe procedure that is proven to help with insomnia, pain, stress, and now Tourette’s.

Acupuncture for tics

It has been reported that acupuncture for Tourette’s syndrome can regulate the abnormal brain function of patients with tic disorders and can alleviate tic symptoms.

Acupuncture for Tourette’s syndrome has a long and successful history in the treatment of the tics, uncontrolled movements, and vocal disturbances of Tourette syndrome.

Herbs that help with Tourette syndrome – effective home-based tics treatment

Herbs that help with TS

  • chamomile,
  • hops,
  • skullcap,
  • wood betony, or valerian,

are free of side effects, provide vitamins and minerals, and relax muscles and nerves.

Herbs that help with Tourette syndrome can be taken as teas by adding 1 teaspoon of the herb to a cup of boiling water and steeping in a covered glass or ceramic pot or mug for 15 minutes.

TS hypnosis – #1 natural Tourette’s syndrome treatment

T’s hypnosis is a behavioral approach that involves patients being able to identify the premonitory urge before a tic occurs. TS hypnosis teaches patients how to control and prevent the tic from happening in the first place.  TS hypnosis is more beneficial because patients are taught how to actually get rid of the tics. It’s treating the underlying cause rather than the symptoms.

Clinical Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy

Listed below are the effects of hypnosis for tics

  • Have fewer and less severe symptoms of tic
  • Experience a growing sense of self-command
  • Feel less defined by your condition
  • Are more relaxed and at ease in general
  • Become more naturally skilled at using self-hypnosis to control your tics.

Whole Body Relaxation for tics

A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that body-mind relaxation meditations can help modulate brain activity in multiple areas where emotion processing is found.

Note: The tic syndrome is a challenging disorder for both the family and the child who has been diagnosed. Depending on the severity and frequency of tics, significant behavioral and social challenges are likely.

Children and teens with Tourette’s syndrome often suffer from poor self-image, loneliness, and isolation. Also, with so many serious co-occurring disorders, including ADHD, OCD, depression, anxiety, anger, and autism-spectrum disorders, effective treatment must focus on overall wellness and support.

Conclusion about tics

People with tics cannot control their physical and verbal activities.

A tic disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition that does not have a cure, but treatments are available to ease the symptoms and co-occurring disorders.

Genetics, environment, and allergens may all play a role in Tourette syndrome.

Depression, loneliness, and poor self-esteem are common.

Many of the prescription medications commonly prescribed have frightening side effects, particularly for young children and teens.

Natural treatments can help with tic severity and the symptoms of co-occurring disorders.

If you are looking for a natural Tourette’s syndrome treatment, holistic medicine is your best choice.

To book an appointment for a comprehensive holistic evaluation and discuss with Victor Tsan, MD your best treatment options contact our clinic at (267) 284-3085 or use our online scheduling application.