Tourette's Syndrome

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Movement Disorders Providers


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Tourette's Syndrome


Our Program

UW Health Neurosurgery

UW Health's Movement Disorders Program, based at University Hospital, treats patients with Tourette's Syndrome.
What is Tourette's Syndrome?
Tourette's Syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system that causes a person to make repeated and uncontrolled movements and/or sounds called tics.

What causes Tourette's Syndrome?
While the exact cause is not known, the syndrome may be linked to problems in the brain and certain substances (dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine) that help brain cells communicate.

Most people first see the symptoms of Tourette's Syndrome during childhood. The most common first symptom is a facial tic. Other tics that may follow include:
  • Arm thrusting
  • Eye blinking
  • Head bobbing
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Repetitive grunting, sniffing, throat clearing
  • Uncontrolled speech production/vocalizations
Tics may occur many times a day, but they tend to improve or get worse at different times. Over time, the pattern of individual tics may change.


If the symptoms of Tourette's Syndrome are minor, they are usually not treated. This may be because the side effects of the medication may be worse than the symptoms of the syndrome.

Once tics become bothersome, various medications can be used to decrease their severity, but their use is carefully monitored due to potential side effects of movement disorders and cognitive dulling. Severe tics have traditionally been treated with anti-psychotics. Psychiatric symptoms are common in Tourette's. These are best approached by careful collaboration between the neurologist and an experienced psychiatrist.

Internet Resources
Tourette Syndrome Association