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Tourette Syndrome: Facts and Resources

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a disorder that affects the nervous system. People with TS have movements and vocalizations they cannot control, called motor and vocal (or phonic) tics. Tics are often rapid, occur over and over again, and usually look or sound about the same each time. Examples of tics include uncontrollable eye-blinking, throat clearing, and humming (1). TS often is associated with at least one additional mental, emotional, or behavioral condition.

Photo: A group of children.How Many Children Have Tourette Syndrome and Who Is Affected by It?

Tourette Syndrome:

  • Was diagnosed among 3 of every 1,000 children 6 through 17 years of age living in the United States in 2007; this represents approximately 148,000 U.S. children.
  • Is three times more common among boys than among girls.
  • Is about twice as common among children 12 through 17 years of age than among those 6 through 11 years of age.
  • Is mild usually, with about one-quarter of children having moderate or severe TS.

How is Tourette Syndrome Diagnosed?

TS is diagnosed by observing tics and determining how long they have lasted. There is no medical test that can identify this condition (2).

According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3):

  • Both motor and vocal tics are present during the illness, although not always at the same time.
  • The tics occur many times a day (usually in bouts) nearly every day or off and on for more than a year, with never a tic-free period of more than 3 months in a row.
  • The onset of TS occurs before a person is 18 years of age.
  • TS is not caused by the direct physiological effects of medications or other substances, and is not the result of a general medical condition (e.g., seizures, Huntington's disease, or postviral encephalitis).

Photo: A group of children running and jumping.Is Tourette Syndrome Curable?

Symptoms (tics) of TS typically start when a child is 6 to 8 years of age. Although tics might appear, disappear, and reappear, TS is considered a chronic condition.

TS often is associated with at least one additional mental, emotional, or behavioral condition. The most common co-occurring conditions are attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive–compulsive disorder (4). Symptoms of TS and the associated co-occurring conditions can place individuals at higher risk for learning, behavioral, and social difficulties. Medicines and behavioral treatments are available to address tic symptoms and symptoms of the associated conditions. Learn more about treatments for TS.

Photo: A group of children.What Can I Do To Help Someone With Tourette Syndrome?

  • Learn About Tourette Syndrome―To help someone with TS or to make important decisions about managing TS, you need information about TS, and understand its treatment and management options. CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities has free educational materials to help you learn more about TS.
  • Educate people around you about TS―One way to help someone with TS with school, work, and other activities is to educate people about TS. When people know more about the disorder, they might be more understanding, helpful, and accommodating.
  • Get Involved―If you are the parent of a child with TS, you can help by creating a special plan for school. Such plans—called 504 plans—are written each year by a committee that includes parents and teachers. A 504 plan lists your child's disability and how the school can help your child succeed. This plan is updated once a year.

For more resources, visit the Tourette Syndrome Association.

What Is CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) Doing About Tourette Syndrome?

Research
NCBDDD works with partners to conduct research to better understand TS, including the prevalence of TS, the quality of life among people affected by TS, risk and protective factors associated with the impact of TS, and health risk behaviors associated with TS. Results from this research are used to better inform public health efforts, which in turn are used to improve the lives and health outcomes of people affected by TS, and to inform future research.

NCBDDD recently completed a summary report [PDF - 410KB] on Tourette Syndrome that highlights gaps in knowledge and resources that can be addressed by public health. The report was informed by a literature review and expert panel, and describes public health activities that are needed to improve the epidemiology of TS, and the health and well-being of people affected by TS.

Education and Training
NCBDDD funds a cooperative agreement with the national Tourette Syndrome Association (TSA) to educate physicians, allied professionals, school personnel, and the general public about TS by providing accurate, up-to-date, evidence-based information about the recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of TS.

More Information

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fact Sheet [PDF - 135KB]; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Tourette Syndrome Fact Sheet.
  2. Tourette Syndrome Association Fact Sheet [PDF - 16KB].
  3. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington (DC), American Psychiatric Association; 2000, pp. 111-114.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of diagnosed Tourette syndrome in Children in the United States, 2007. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009;58:581–5.
  • Page last reviewed: June 6, 2011
  • Page last updated: June 7, 2011
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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