Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder that is characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, and involuntary movements, and vocalizations. According to statistics, it is estimated that around 200,000 Americans have the most severe form of Tourette’s syndrome and around 1 in 100 exhibit milder and less complex symptoms. Males are affected about three to four times compared to females.
Researchers are yet to determine the exact cause of Tourette’s Syndrome. However, current studies have pointed to abnormalities in certain brain regions, the interconnections of these regions, and the neurotransmitters that are responsible for communication among these nerve cells. With this, doctors and research infer that the exact cause of the disorder is a complex one.
Tics are repetitive involuntary movements and vocalizations. Tics are classified as simple or complex. Simple motor tics involve a limited number of muscle groups that produce sudden, brief, and repetitive movement such as eye blinking, other eye movements, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and jerking of the head or shoulders. Simple vocalization might include repetitive throat clearing, sniffing, or grunting while simple vocal tics include throat clearing, sniffing, snorting, grunting, or barking.
Meanwhile, complex motor tics involve several muscle groups that produce distinct and coordinate movement patterns such as facial grimacing with head twisting and shoulder shrugging. Complex vocal tics include words or phrases.
Currently, there is no cure for Tourette’s Syndrome. However, medications and therapy can help to reduce the symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome.
Medications to block or lessen dopamine
Pharmaceutical drugs under this category block or lessen the dopamine in order to control tics. Possible side effects include upset stomach, changes in appetite and/or weight, difficulty urinating, weakness/tiredness, drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, involuntary repetitive movements, insomnia, anxiety, nightmares, dry mouth, and increased sensitivity to sunlight.
Botox is injected onto the affected muscle to help relieve a simple or vocal tic. However, this might cause allergic reactions, rash, itching, headache, neck/back pain, muscle stiffness, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, reactions at the injection site, fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, flu symptoms, cold symptoms, respiratory infections, dizziness, drowsiness, tiredness, anxiety, dry mouth, increased sweating, and urinary problems.
ADHD medications are also prescribed to Tourette’s syndrome patients in order to increase attention and concentration. Usage might cause side effects such as fast heartbeat, chest pain, fever, joint pain, skin rash/hives, loss of appetite, weight loss, dry mouth, upset stomach, nausea, dizziness, headache, diarrhea, fever, nervousness, and insomnia. In other patients, the usage of ADHD medications might cause exacerbation of tics.
Central adrenergic inhibitors
Central adrenergic inhibitors help with high blood pressure, medications such as clonidine and guanfacine might also help control behavioral symptoms in patients with Tourette’s syndrome. However, usage may cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, dry mouth, constipation, tiredness, nausea, headache, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, weight gain, irritability, insomnia, sneezing, cough, and sore throat among others.
Antidepressants help control symptoms of sadness, anxiety, and OCD among Tourette’s patients. There are many side effect of these medications, thus, these medicines should be used with caution.
Recent research suggests that some Tourette’s patients respond to topiramate. However, usage might cause side effects such as:
- Coordination problems
- Weight loss
- Speech/language problems
- Changes in vision
- Sensory distortion
- Loss of appetite
- Slowed thinking
- Concentration problems
- Memory problems
- Cold-like symptoms
Tourette’s Syndrome & Medical Marijuana
One study done by the University of Toronto showed that cannabis quiets tics in patients. Another study came to the conclusion that medical marijuana helps people with Tourette’s Syndrome calm behavioral problems as well. Participants had an overall better outlook and listened better than the control group.