The recent Rani Mukherjee starrer puts the spotlight on a little known neurological condition that is quite common in childhood
Tourette Syndrome isn’t progeria and Rani Mukherjee certainly isn’t Amitabh Bachchan. But it is far more common and as anybody who has suffered from it knows – symptoms do often tend to get better with age – the struggle to be accepted with one’s “differences” is not as small as a mere “hichki”.
What is Tourette Syndrome?
Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder, characterised by involuntary actions or noises called tics. Tics appear in early childhood but as the person grows older their intensity and frequency usually decrease. However when they do happen especially in children where peer antagonism to somebody who stands out, can sometimes take brutal forms, they can cause a lot of angst, sometimes may even lead to problems such as learning disorders or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Tics can be simple or complex – can vary from blinking, winking, making a series of involuntary sounds, yelling or uncontrolled limb movements. As a Centers for Disease Control says on Tourette: “Having tics is a little bit like having hiccups. Even though you might not want to hiccup, your body does it anyway. Sometimes people can stop themselves from doing a certain tic for awhile, but it’s hard. Eventually the person has to do the tic.”
Named after French neurologist Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, the who described the condition in an 86-year-old French noblewoman in 1885, Tourette Syndrome is little known but quite common.
How common is it?
Named after French neurologist Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, the who described the condition in an 86-year-old French noblewoman in 1885, Tourette Syndrome is little known but quite common. CDC says that in the US, 1 of every 360 children 6 through 17 years of age have been diagnosed with TS. In India, limited care seeking behaviour for such disorders and a general lack of data discipline makes Tourette Syndrome statistics difficult to come by.
Why does it happen?
There seems to be a genetic element to TS. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Evidence from twin and family studies suggests that TS is an inherited disorder. Although early family studies suggested an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance (an autosomal dominant disorder is one in which only one copy of the defective gene, inherited from one parent, is necessary to produce the disorder), more recent studies suggest that the pattern of inheritance is much more complex. Although there may be a few genes with substantial effects, it is also possible that many genes with smaller effects and environmental factors may play a role in the development of TS.”
How is it treated?
There is no “cure” for RS in the traditional sense of the word. But sufferers can learn to live with the tics or manage them better, even integrate them into their mannerisms so that they become less pronounced. However TS also has strong associations with other behavioural or developmental disorders. According to CDC upto 86% TS kids had an associated condition with ADHD and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) being the most common. These conditions need to be treated.