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Treating the Tics from Tourette Syndrome

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Tourette syndrome, also referred to as Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, affects the brain, resulting in involuntary sounds and movements, or tics. The ]]>Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)]]> pointed out that in the United States, three out of 1,000 children between ages six and 17 have Tourette syndrome. Symptoms of Tourette syndrome tend to start between ages seven and ten, with the severity ranging from mild to severe. ]]>MedlinePlus, a service of the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health]]>, notes that boys are four times more likely than girls to have Tourette syndrome.

The ]]>MayoClinic.com]]> explained that the tics from Tourette syndrome are classified into two groups: simple tics and complex tics. With a simple tic, the patient has a brief involuntary action that has minimum movement. In comparison, with a complex tic, the patient has involuntary movements that involve multiple muscles. Tourette syndrome patients can have motor tics and vocal tics, which can be simple or complex. For example, eye blinking is a simple motor tic and arm flapping is a complex motor tic. In addition, yelling is a simple vocal tic and using expletives is a complex vocal tic.

Doctors can prescribe medications for the treatment of Tourette syndrome. For example, dopamine blockers are used for tics. Examples of dopamine blockers include risperidone, fluphenazine, pimozide and haloperidol. These drugs work by reducing the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, which helps control the tics. However, these medications do have side effects, such as cognitive dulling and movement disorders, according to MedlinePlus.

]]>Reuters Health]]> reports that a type of behavior therapy, called comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics (CIBT), can treat the tics at a similar effectiveness as the medications, but without the side effects. The CIBT is based on behavior modification, in which the patient recognizes the urge, but performs a voluntary movement instead of the tic. This behavioral therapy does not cause the patient to forcefully suppress the tic, which can worsen the tic. For example, instead of yelling (vocal tic), the patient is taught a specific breathing pattern. The CIBT also has the patient identify the triggers of the tics, and find ways to keep them out of her life.

In the clinical study, 126 Tourette syndrome patients between ages nine and 17 either underwent eight CIBT sessions over ten weeks or were in the control group. Reuters Health explained that about 53 percent of the CIBT participants had higher levels of improvement. The CIBT participants also had improvement in school functioning, social interactions and in psychological well-being.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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