Tourette syndrome (TS or simply Tourette's) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with onset in childhood, characterized by multiple movement (motor) tics and at least one vocal (phonic) tic. Some common tics are blinking, coughing, throat clearing, sniffing, and facial movements. These tics are typically preceded by an unwanted urge or sensation in the affected muscles, can sometimes be suppressed temporarily, and characteristically change in location, strength, and frequency. Tics are often unnoticed by casual observers.
Once regarded as a rare and bizarre syndrome, Tourette's has popularly been associated with coprolalia (the utterance of obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks), but this symptom is present in only a minority of people with Tourette's. It is no longer considered a rare condition; about 1% of school-age children and adolescents are estimated to have Tourette's, though many go undiagnosed or never seek medical care. There are no specific tests for diagnosing Tourette's; it is not always correctly identified because most cases are mild and the severity of tics decreases for most children as they pass through adolescence. Extreme Tourette's in adulthood, though sensationalized in the media, is rare. Tourette's does not affect intelligence or life expectancy.
Education is an important part of any treatment plan, and explanation and reassurance alone are often sufficient. In most cases, medication for tics is not necessary, and behavioral therapies are the first-line treatment. Among those who are seen in specialty clinics, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) are present at higher rates. These co-occurring diagnoses often cause more impairment to the individual than the tics; hence, it is important to correctly distinguish co-occurring conditions and treat them.
Tourette's is defined as part of a spectrum of tic disorders. While the exact cause is unknown, it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The mechanism appears to involve dysfunction in neural circuits between the basal ganglia and related structures in the brain. Compared to the success in genetic research seen in other conditions, funded research into the genetics of Tourette's is lagging in the US. The condition was named by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot on behalf of his resident, Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who published an account of nine patients with Tourette's in 1885.