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Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder that starts in childhood. It becomes clear in kids before the age of 18 years.
TS involves repetitive movements and vocalizations called motor and vocal tics.
There's no cure for TS, but it doesn't shorten your child's life expectancy.
The Tourette Syndrome Clinic at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh has many options to help manage your child's tics.
To plan a visit, call 412-692-5520.
To plan a visit, call 412-692-5520.
TS is a nervous system disorder that causes tics.
Tics are rapid, repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements or vocalizations.
Although tics aren't voluntary, people can often suppress them for a short time. They are quick, but can cluster — and many tics can occur together in succession.
Kids who have TS often describe a feeling before a tic called a premonitory urge.
Tics can start very early, commonly around age 4 or 5.
For a diagnosis of TS, a child will have had:
In the U.S., about 1 out of every 160 kids between 5 and 17 has TS.
It's more common in boys than girls.
TS looks different in each child, but many options exist to help manage symptoms.
Doctors don't know exactly what causes TS. There's likely a difference in motor pathways and neurochemical signals in the brain.
We do know TS runs in families. A parent with TS carries a chance to pass this disorder on to their children.
Researchers are working to find the genes involved with TS.
Motor and vocal tics are the main symptom of TS.
The type of tic and length of symptoms helps doctors make a diagnosis.
Some of the most common motor tics are:
Some of the most common vocal tics are:
Other less obvious vocal tics can include repeating:
There are other rarer tics as well, such as:
In more complex cases, a child may have multiple motor or vocal tics in a series.
Other compulsions that can be hard to differentiate from tics are repetitive touching, licking, or thoughts.
Tics can increase with anxiety or excitement.
A person's surroundings can also influence them. For example, hearing another person sniff or cough may trigger a similar sound.
Most people with TS will outgrow their tics by the end of their teen years. Puberty is a time when tics may increase for some people, but usually thereafter, they gradually improve. Eventually, for a majority of people, they resolve.
No test or imaging study can confirm a TS diagnosis. Doctors diagnose it based on symptoms you provide during a medical history and observing the concerning movements and vocalizations.
During an appointment, doctors will ask you and your child about their tics.
The doctor will want to know:
The doctor will also ask about your child's other symptoms, such as if they:
Kids with TS often have other mental health and behavioral issues.
Among kids with TS, 86% have one or more of these issues.
Anxiety and hyperactivity can make tics worse. The reverse is also true. Tics can cause kids to feel more anxious and increase behavior issues.
Some kids may need medicines and therapy to help control their tics. Others may need treatment to help with mental health issues, like ADHD or OCD. And still, others may need treatment for both.
Treating the whole child and knowing how TS relates to their other symptoms is vital.
Your treatment team may include not only your child's PCP and neurologist but also a therapist and psychiatrist.
The decision to start treatment is individual.
The best treatment approach considers all aspects of TS and targets the most outstanding symptom.
These may include:
Common treatments for TS include:
It's also crucial to be open with your child's teachers. Kids with TS can gain from educational support, such as a 504 plan.
To plan a visit or make an appointment with a TS expert, call 412-692-5520.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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