What Are the Symptoms and Risk Factors of Tourette Syndrome?

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Q: What are the symptoms and risk factors of Tourette syndrome? A: The hallmark symptoms of Tourette syndrome are tics — sudden, brief, intermittent movements or sounds. Tics can range from mild to severe. Severe symptoms might significantly interfere with communication, daily functioning and quality of life. Tics are classified as:
  • Simple tics. These sudden, brief and repetitive tics involve a limited number of muscle groups;
  • Complex tics. These distinct, coordinated patterns of movements involve several muscle groups.
Tics also can involve movement (motor tics) or sounds (vocal tics). Motor tics usually begin before vocal tics do. But the spectrum of tics that people experience is diverse. Common motor tics seen in Tourette syndrome Simple tics
  • Eye blinking
  • Head jerking
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Eye darting
  • Nose twitching
  • Mouth movements
Complex tics
  • Touching or smelling objects
  • Repeating observed movements
  • Stepping in a certain pattern
  • Obscene gesturing
  • Bending or twisting
  • Hopping
Common vocal tics seen in Tourette syndrome Simple tics
  • Grunting
  • Coughing
  • Throat clearing
  • Barking
Complex tics
  • Repeating one's own words or phrases
  • Repeating others' words or phrases
  • Using vulgar, obscene or swear words
Risk factors Risk factors for Tourette syndrome include:
  • Family history. Having a family history of Tourette syndrome or other tic disorders might increase the risk of developing Tourette syndrome.
  • Sex. Males are about three to four times more likely than females to develop Tourette syndrome.