Tourette's syndrome

In diagnosing Tourette’s syndrome, the first stage is to rule out other possible causes of your child’s symptoms.

The first stage in diagnosing Tourette’s syndrome is to rule out other possible causes of your child’s symptoms.

Other possible causes include:

  • allergies – if they're sniffing and coughing
  • vision problems – if they're blinking more than usual

It's also necessary to rule out other conditions that can cause tic-like behaviours, such as:

  • autistic spectrum disorder – a developmental disorder which causes problems with social interaction, learning and behaviour, and may cause mannerisms or stereotypies (repetitive movements) that can be mistaken for tics
  • dystonia – a condition that causes involuntary muscle spasms

To help rule out these conditions, your child may be referred to a number of experts, such as:

  • a neurologist – a doctor who specialises in treating conditions affecting the brain and nervous system
  • a psychiatrist  a doctor who specialises in treating mental health conditions
  • an educational or clinical psychologist – healthcare professionals who work with children who have learning, developmental or behavioural difficulties

Brain-imaging scans, such as computerised tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, can also be used to check for any brain or nervous system abnormalities suggesting a neurological cause for your child’s symptoms, other than Tourette’s syndrome. However, most children with tics or Tourette’s syndrome don't require a brain scan.

Confirming the diagnosis

There's currently no single test for Tourette’s syndrome. A diagnosis can only be made by assessing your child’s symptoms to see whether they follow the pattern usually associated with the syndrome.

A confident diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome can usually be made if your child:

  • has symptoms that are not being caused by other medical conditions or any medication they are taking
  • started having tics before 18 years of age
  • has had several physical tics and at least one vocal tic
  • has tics that occur many times during the day, virtually every day
  • has been having tics for at least a year

Tourettes Action

If your child is diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, you may want to find out as much as you can about it, including available treatments and support.

A good place to start is Tourettes Action, a UK charity for people with the syndrome.

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