Genetics is the study of inheritance and how it relates to the world. However, some people inherit the short straw. Every so often, abnormal genes can cause something considered a genetic disorder. A genetic disorder is an inherited medical condition caused by an abnormality in DNA. One of these genetic disorders is called Tourette’s syndrome, or more commonly referred to as Tourette syndrome. This condition is a disorder in which those with Tourette syndrome, or TS develop stereotyped and uncontrollable movements, called tics.
Tourette syndrome (TS) is a disorder that involves mechanical movements or unwanted sounds and tics that cannot be absolutely controlled. Tics usually show up between ages 2 and 15, the median age being around 6. TS is typically three to four times more likely to show up in males than females. Severe symptoms (such as barking, jerking, rude gestures, and obscenities) can affect communication skills, ordinary functions, and quality of life. Motor tics (movements) usually begin before vocal tics (sounds) do. There are simple tics, which use only a few muscles, and complex tics, which use several muscle groups, reports the National Institutes of Health.
Simple motor tics include “eye blinking, head jerking, shoulder shrugging, eye darting, nose twitching, and mouth movements,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Complex motor tics, such as touching and smelling objects, repeated movements, stepping in a certain pattern, obscene gesturing, hopping and twisting, and bending, vary in type, frequency and severity. Simple vocal tics can comprise of “sniffing, throat clearing, grunting, hooting, or shouting,” the National Tourette Association of America writes. In up to 15% of TS cases, words are inappropriate such as racial slurs, foul words, or other unacceptable words and phrases.
A consensus written by multiple reputable doctors shows that tics aren’t rare in adolescent children (as many as one in five), but most symptoms pass within a few years. A study proved that tics are exhibited in 20% of children ages 6-17. That’s what we know. But we don’t much much about TS.
The exact cause of Tourette syndrome isn’t perceived, but it’s likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Conditions tend to occur in families, and many studies have confirmed that genetics is involved. Researchers are continuing to search for the genes and other factors that cause or may contribute to TS and other tic disorders. Current research points to flaws and abnormalities in certain brain regions (including the basal ganglia, the frontal lobes, and the cortex), and also to the circuits that connect these things. Chemicals in the brain that serve as neurotransmitters (transmits nerve impulses) like dopamine and serotonin might contribute to the cause of this genetic disorder. But how can we cure something we don’t know much about?
Regrettably, there’s no cure for Tourette syndrome, but many beneficial treatments are available. Many people don’t require treatment for TS when their symptoms aren’t severe, but for those who do, effective meds can be taken when symptoms affect routine life. No one medication is helpful to everyone with TS, nor does the medication eliminate all symptoms and conditions. In addition, practically all medicines cause side effects. Therapy can be helpful; habit-reversal training is when you are taught to know when a tic is coming and then move to halt it; however, tics often “lessen or can be controlled” after the teenaged years. Even though there is no treatment for Tourette syndrome, this genetic disorder expands the understanding we possess of genetics and other related disorders and illnesses.
Tourette syndrome is a condition of the nervous system which causes people to have unmanageable tics. Genetic disorders are abnormalities of a gene or cell. Though TS is a stereotyped genetic condition (learn more about these common misconceptions here), many of those with TS can lead normal, happy, and successful lives. Genetics is critical to everyday life. Genetics represents the study of the world’s connection.
Story by Caroline Barton