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Tics/Tourette Syndrome

Tics are spasm-like movements of particular muscles in the body. There are two types of tics: motor and vocal. Motor tics are short-lasting movements and vocal tics are uttered sounds; both may occur suddenly during what is otherwise classified as normal behavior.


Tics are classified as simple or complex. The following describes these two classifications.

    1. Motor-eye blinking, nose-twitching, head jerking, shoulder shrugging, and facial grimacing.
    2. Vocal-throat clearing, yelping, and other noises, sniffing and tongue clicking.

    1. Motor-jumping, touching other people or things, smelling, twirling about, and only rarely, self-injurious actions including hitting or biting oneself; usually a series of movements performed in the same order
    2. Vocal-uttering words or phrases out of context and coprolalia (vocalizing socially unacceptable words).

Doctors use the following four characteristics to identify and diagnose tic disorders: the age when tics began, duration of the tics, severity of the tics, and whether tics are motor or vocal or both.

Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, commonly known as Tourette syndrome or TS, is a neurological disorder which becomes evident in early childhood or adolescence before the age of 18 years. Tourette syndrome is defined by multiple motor and vocal tics that last more than one year. The first symptoms usually are involuntary movements, tics, of the face, arms, limbs, or trunk. These tics are frequent, repetitive, and rapid. However, the most common first symptom is a facial tic (eye blink, nose twitch, or grimace), and is later replaced by or added to by other tics of the neck, trunk, and limbs.


The treatment for tic disorders depends on the severity of the condition. In many instances, no treatment is needed and the tics will resolve on their own. In other cases, doctors may prescribe behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Behavioral therapy helps people learn to manage their tic symptoms and reduce the tic frequency. Medications are typically used to reduce tic frequency and enhance a patient's daily life. However, this usually does not result in the complete remission of tic symptoms.

Erlanger Resources

Pediatric Neurology