Tics and Gilles de la Tourette syndrome

A tic is a repetitive, purposeless movement such as blinking or grunting, partly under voluntary control. Tics may develop in normal children, and are exacerbated by emotional disturbance. They are best ignored, and usually disappear spontaneously, but, if not, then behaviour therapy may help.

Gilles de la Tourette syndrome comprises multiple tics and compulsive utterances. Tics first affect the facial muscles, and then spread to other parts of the body. Involuntary utterances then occur, such as barking noises, and later obscene words or short phrases (coprolalia). Echolalia and echopraxia may be present. Onset is usually in childhood, and boys are affected three times more often than girls. The syndrome has a genetic component, and may be associated with organic brain disease or the presence of minor neurological signs. Medication with haloperidol, pimozide, or clonidine, and/or behaviour therapy, may be effective.

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