by EBSCO Medical Review Board


Tourette syndrome (TS) is a nervous system disorder that causes motor and vocal tics that a person cannot control. Tics are fast sounds or motions that repeat.

Many people with TS also have related problems, such as:


The exact cause is not known. Certain genes and brain chemicals are thought to play a role.

Genetic Material
Chromosome DNA
TS is inherited through genes, which make up DNA.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

This problem usually starts in children. It is more common in men.


A person with TS has tics that they cannot control. They often happen every day and range from mild to severe. They may happen less when a person is distracted and more during times of stress.

Problems may be:

  • Motor tics:
    • Simple—eye blinking, head jerking, arm or shoulder shrugging
    • Complex—jumping, smelling, touching things or other people, twirling around
  • Vocal tics:
    • Simple—throat clearing, coughing, sniffing, grunting, yelping, barking
    • Complex—saying words or phrases that do not make sense, saying obscene or socially unacceptable words

Tics may happen throughout life. Symptoms may get better during the late teen years.


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.


The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. A doctor who treats the nervous system can help. Choice are:


Behavioral therapies can help a person develop habits to manage tics. Therapy may include:

  • Learning to replace tics with other motions or sounds that are more acceptable.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Psychotherapy may also be used to learn how to cope with the disorder.


Most people do not need medicine. It may be given to people whose tics are severe and not helped by other methods.

Some medicines that may ease tics are:

  • Alpha-2 adrenergic agonists to ease tics
  • Antipsychotic medicine


There are no current guidelines to prevent TS.


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 

Tourette Syndrome Association 


About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children 

Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada 


Budman CL. The Role of Atypical Antipsychotics for Treatment of Tourette's Syndrome: An Overview. Drugs. 2014 Jul;74(11):1177-1193.

Tourette syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  . Updated August 13, 2018. Accessed April 9, 2020.

Tourette syndrome fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Updated March 17, 2020. Accessed April 9, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 02/2020
  • Update Date: 04/09/2020