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Ask the Pediatrician: What exactly is Tourette syndrome?

Dr. Alcy R. Torres, American Academy of Pediatrics on

Published in Health & Fitness

Q: I’ve been told my son may have Tourette syndrome. What exactly is this and how worried should I be?

A: Tourette syndrome is a nervous system disorder. It causes people to have repetitive movements or sounds they can't control. These are known as tics, and they typically start in childhood. There are two types: motor tics and vocal tics.

You may feel anxious if your child is diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. That’s completely understandable, and educating yourself about this condition can go a long way toward lessening your fears.

Tourette syndrome is a type of tic disorder. Tics can be short, fast, sudden or come in clusters. They can also vary in number, frequency, type or severity. They can even disappear for weeks or months at a time. We often see Tourette syndrome portrayed in popular media as people blurting out profane words. This is rare in real life.

Usually, tics start gradually. In fact, your child may have had them for a long time before you notice.

Motor tics include:

 

— Blinking

— Head jerking

— Grimacing

— Mouth opening

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