What is Gilles De La Tourette Syndrome?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, also known as Tourette syndrome, is one of many distinguishable neurological disorders. Individuals with Gilles de la Tourette syndrome generally suffer very distinctive symptoms. Many people with the disorder will have uncontrollable movements such as repeated jerking, blinking or shrugging. The disorder may also cause an individual to make uncontrollable sounds, such as repeatedly saying obscenities. Anyone can get this neurological disorder, although it tends to affect more males than females.

Gilles de la Tourette syndrome is named after Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who was the first to describe the syndrome. A definitive cause of this disorder is still unknown, although it is believed genetics may be a leading contributor. For this reason, it is sometimes listed under genetic disorders or as an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder. An abnormality in the brain may also be a possible cause. For instance, it is believed that an abnormality in certain brain chemicals which control nerve impulses may have something to do with the development of this disorder.

Gilles de la Tourette syndrome symptoms usually occur in childhood. The foremost symptoms are usually tics or uncontrolled and repetitious body movements and sounds. Commonly, the physical tics or body movements will include repetitive jerking, blinking of the eyes, jumping, shoulder shrugging and arm thrusting. Uncontrolled sounds may include repetitive coughing, grunts, clearing the throat and continuous sniffing. Some people may also uncontrollably utter obscenities.


There is no particular medical examination to diagnose Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. Often, when dealing with a person with this disorder, doctors first rule out more recognizable conditions that may cause similar symptoms. For example, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be done to look for any distinguishable brain problems. Additionally, when a person has very mild symptoms, they may easily be attributed to another disorder. For instance, the repetitive blinking may be simply classified as a longtime habit.

Sometimes the symptoms of Gilles de la Tourette syndrome can be very severe, which may make it easier for doctors to diagnose the disorder. To better help physicians in specific situations, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has established a criteria of which a person may qualify for to get a clinical diagnosis of this syndrome. Examples of some of the qualifications include having tics that occurred before age 18, having no other medically diagnosed medical condition that would cause the tics and having both motor and vocal tics.

Gilles de la Tourette syndrome treatment will primarily center on managing the tics, as the disorder has no definitive cure. Some people may benefit from medications used to control tics. Although not everyone with this syndrome will need medicine and there is no one medicine from which everyone with this disorder will benefit. In addition, psychotherapy and deep brain stimulation may also be used as treatment. Deep brain stimulation involves using an implanted device to provide electrical stimulation to parts of the brain which control movement.


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