Most people with Tourette syndrome first notice symptoms during childhood, between ages 7 and 10.
The most common first symptom is a tic of the face, but other tics may follow. A tic is a sudden, fast, repeated movement or sound.
Symptoms of Tourette syndrome can range from tiny, minor movements (such as grunts, sniffling, or coughing) to constant movements and sounds that can't be controlled.
Tics can include:
Tics may occur many times a day, but they tend to improve or get worse at different times. The tics may change with time. Symptoms usually get worse before the mid-teen years.
Contrary to popular belief, only a small number of patients use curse words or other inappropriate words or phrases (coprolalia).
Tourette syndrome is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People with OCD feel as though they have to do the behaviors.
Many people with Tourette syndrome can stop doing the tic for periods of time. However, they find that the tic is stronger for a few minutes after they allow it to start again. Often the tic slows or stops during sleep.
There are no lab tests to diagnose Tourette syndrome. However, a health care provider should do an examination to rule out other causes of the symptoms.
To be diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, a person must:
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Jankovic J, Lang AE. Movement disorders: diagnosis and assessment. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier; 2008:chap 23.
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