Tourette Syndrome



The exact cause is not known. Certain genes and brain chemicals are thought to play a role.

Genetic Material
Chromosome DNA
TS is inherited through genes, which make up DNA.
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Risk Factors

This problem usually starts in children. It is more common in men.



A person with Tourette Syndrome has tics that they cannot control. They often happen every day and range from mild to severe. They may happen less when a person is distracted and more when they are stressed.

A person may have:

  • Motor tics:
    • Simple—eye blinking, head jerking, arm or shoulder shrugging
    • Complex—jumping, smelling, touching things or other people, twirling around
  • Vocal tics:
    • Simple—throat clearing, coughing, sniffing, grunting, yelping, barking
    • Complex—saying words or phrases that do not make sense, saying obscene or socially unacceptable words

Tics may happen throughout life. Symptoms may get better during the late teen years.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.



The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. A doctor who treats the nervous system can help. Choice are:


Behavioral therapies can help a person form habits to manage tics. Therapy may include:

  • Learning to replace tics with other motions or sounds that are more acceptable.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Psychotherapy may also be used to help a person learn how to cope with the disorder.


Most people do not need medicine. Medicine to ease tics may be given to people whose tics are severe and not helped by other methods.


There are no current guidelines to prevent Tourette Syndrome.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.