Gilles de la Tourette syndrome

Alternative Names

Tourette syndrome

Definition of Gilles de la Tourette syndrome

Gilles de la Tourette syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system that causes a person to make repeated and uncontrolled (involuntary) rapid movements and sounds (vocalizations) called tics. The disorder is commonly called Tourette syndrome.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Tourette syndrome is named for Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who first described this disorder in 1885. There is strong evidence that Tourette syndrome is passed down through families, although the gene has not yet been found.


Most affected people first notice symptoms of Tourette syndrome during childhood, between ages 7 and 10.

Signs and tests

There are no lab tests to diagnose Tourette syndrome. However, a health care provider should do an examination to rule out other causes of these symptoms.


Many patients with Tourette syndrome have very minor symptoms. In this case, they are usually not treated, because the side effects of the medications may be worse than the symptoms of the condition.

Expectations (prognosis)

Most patients improve in early adulthood. Although 1 in 4 patients may be symptom-free for a few years, only 8% of patients have symptoms completely go away without returning.


David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 3/30/2010

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