​Tourette s​yndrome

Tourette syndrome is a type of neurological disorder (that is, related to the brain) that affects children. It is characterized by “tics”, that is, involuntary and unusual repetitive movements or unwanted sounds that you can not control. Tics are brief and purposeless movements, and can be classified as:

  • Motor tics: Tics that produce movement

  • Vocal tics or phonic tics: Tics that produce sound

Examples of these involuntary movements include blinking, shrugging your shoulders, jerking your head, coughing, sniffing etc. Children between the ages of 2 and 12 typically experience the signs and symptoms of Tourette syndrome, with boys being more likely to develop the symptoms than girls.

In order to be diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, you must display the following characteristics:

  • Have two or more motor tics (such as blinking, shrugging the shoulders etc.) and at least one vocal tic (such as humming, clearing the throat, repeatedly yelling out a word or phrase etc.), although they might not always happen at the same time.

  • Have had tics for at least one year. These tics can occur as frequently as several times a day or sporadically.

  • Tics must begin before you are eighteen years of age.

  • Have symptoms that are not due to medication, other drugs or another medical condition such as seizures or Huntington’s​ disease.

Symptoms of Tourette syndrome are very diverse, and include the following types of tics:

  • Simple motor tics: These involve a single muscle or group of muscles, such as blinking, sniffing, coughing, neck twitching, jerking or eye rolling.

  • Complex motor tics: These involve movements that often involve multiple muscle groups and may appear as somewhat purposeful movements or behaviours. Examples of complex motor tics include touching yourself or others, hitting, jumping, shaking etc.

  • Simple phonic tics: These are simple sounds such as grunting, coughing, clearing your throat, swallowing, blowing, or making sucking sounds.

  • Complex phonic tics: These include words and/or complex phrases.

You are also likely to display behavioural symptoms. Children suffering from Tourette syndrome are often also diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

If you or a loved one is facing similar symptoms such as displaying involuntary sounds and/or movements, it is recommended that you consult your doctor immediately. You can obtain additional information and expert medical advice from the Mind and Brain Service Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital.​​
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here​ are some tips to help get you started.​

Your doctor will only make a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome after ensuring that you have had both motor and vocal tics for at least one year.  He/she will also verify the existence of other neurological or psychiatric conditions. If unusual symptoms are present, they may require more detailed diagnosis than in typical cases. Usually, there are no blood, laboratory, or imaging tests conducted but in rare cases, brain imaging techniques such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan or Computerized Tomography (CT) scan, or certain blood tests may be used to rule out other conditions. 

A formal diagnosis can only be obtained after symptoms have been present for some time. Symptoms, especially milder ones are considered unimportant. For instance, you may ignore constant eye blinking as consider it being related to vision problems; or similarly attribute sniffing to allergies.                         ​

There is no single treatment available to cure Tourette syndrome. Certain medications may help to control the symptoms. Drugs can also be prescribed to alleviate the underlying condition such as ADHD or OCD (for instance anti-depressants and stimulants). However, you have to exercise caution with their use and dosage, as these medications may often have considerable side effects such as weight gain, dulling of the brain, sleepiness etc.

The risks and benefits of each case have to be weighed carefully and the drugs must only be taken if necessary. If your symptoms are harmless and not interfering with your daily life, it is not recommended that you start a heavy dose of medication as you may end up risking a lot more than you are gaining.                         ​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.                         ​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage

​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.