With Tourette syndrome, the uncontrollable tics can cause problems at home, work, school or in social situations. At Henry Ford Health, our neurologists have advanced training and experience in treating Tourette syndrome. We work with you and provide a thorough evaluation of your condition to decide on the right therapies to help minimize your symptoms.
What is Tourette syndrome?
Tourette syndrome is a neurological (nervous system) disorder that involves tics, which are sudden, repetitive movements or sounds that are difficult to control. The tics are involuntary (unintentional) and usually begin in children between ages 2 and 15.
Tics often improve after the late teens, and many people don't need treatment if tics are mild and don’t interfere with daily life. Although Tourette syndrome has no cure, treatments can help control tics.
Tourette syndrome symptoms
The main symptom of Tourette syndrome is tics, which occur in two categories:
- Simple: Simple tics involve only one muscle group. Examples of simple motor tics include shoulder shrugging or nose twitching. Simple vocal tics are a single sound, such as barking or hissing.
- Complex: Coordinated movements from several muscle groups form patterns of actions. Examples of complex motor tics include walking or jumping in a certain pattern or mimicking others’ movements. Complex vocal tics can be making animal sounds or yelling words or phrases.
Tourette syndrome care at Henry Ford: Why choose us?
The Henry Ford Comprehensive Movement Disorders Center provides treatment and supportive services to help people manage Tourette syndrome, its tics and related symptoms.
Highlights of our program include:
- Collaborative approach: Our team of specialists work together, combining their expertise from multiple fields of medicine for your care. We take a holistic, or whole person, approach to recommend the right treatments for you, adjusting them over time for the best possible results. Meet our movement disorders team.
- Comprehensive diagnostic evaluation: Our experienced neurologists do a thorough evaluation to understand your symptoms. We evaluate related behavioral conditions —including depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder — so that we can provide the right treatment for you.
Tourette syndrome evaluation
No specific test can confirm a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome. Our experienced neurologists diagnose the disorder based on its signs and symptoms.
Other conditions can cause motor and vocal tics. To determine the cause, we do a thorough evaluation, beginning with a physical exam, and ask you about symptoms. For a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome, you must have:
- Tics that occur several times a day, almost every day, for a year or longer
- Two or more motor tics and at least one vocal tic, but not necessarily at the same time
- Tics that began before age 18
- Symptoms that are not caused by medications or other conditions
To rule out other conditions, we may recommend other tests, such as:
- Blood tests: We test small samples of your blood for signs of allergies, infections or other conditions that can cause tics like those in Tourette syndrome.
- Electrodiagnostics: Tests such as electroencephalogram (EEG) measure electrical activity in the brain. An EEG can show signs of dystonia, Huntington's disease or other conditions that can cause tics. Learn more about our electromyography (EMG) lab.
- Imaging studies: Imaging of the brain, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT), can help rule out other conditions or injuries. Traumatic brain injury and conditions such as epilepsy can cause tics and related symptoms.
Tourette syndrome treatment
You may not need treatment if the tics are not interfering with work, school or other daily activities. For more severe tics, we offer surgical and nonsurgical treatment options, and you may need more than one type of treatment.
Nonsurgical treatments for Tourette syndrome
Our nonsurgical treatments include:
- Medications: A wide variety of medications can help control tics and improve focus, concentration and emotional symptoms such as anxiety or depression.
- Botox® injections: Botulinum toxin, or Botox, injections into the affected muscles can improve simple motor or vocal tics. Learn more about Botox for neuromuscular disorders.
- Behavioral therapy: Our psychologists, psychiatrists and licensed clinical social workers offer therapies to help manage tics and cope with related problems. Cognitive Behavioral Interventions for Tics (CBIT) and psychotherapy (talk therapy) are particularly helpful.
- Integrative medicine therapies: Acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, tai chi, yoga and other therapies can help you relax and manage stress. With biofeedback, you learn to control muscle tensions and other body functions. Find out what we offer at the Henry Ford Center for Integrative Medicine.
Learn more about our nonsurgical therapies for movement disorders.
Deep brain stimulation for Tourette syndrome
We may recommend surgery for more severe tics, if medications and therapy don’t provide enough relief. Our expert neurosurgeons are leaders in deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat Tourette syndrome.
Treatment for conditions related to Tourette syndrome
People with Tourette syndrome may also have certain other behavioral, emotional or learning disorders and difficulties. The conditions we treat along with Tourette syndrome include: