Treatment of tics and tourette syndrome

Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2010 Nov;12(6):539-61. doi: 10.1007/s11940-010-0095-4.


Tics come in a variety of types and frequencies; have a waxing and waning course; are exacerbated by stress, anxiety, and fatigue; and often resolve or improve in the teenage or early adult years. Tourette syndrome requires the presence of chronic, fluctuating motor and phonic tics. In addition to tics, individuals with Tourette syndrome often have a variety of comorbid conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety, episodic outbursts, and academic difficulties. These conditions often are a greater source of difficulty than the tics themselves. All patients with tics should be evaluated to assure proper diagnosis and to identify any associated psychopathology or academic difficulty. The treatment of tics begins with education of the patient and family, including discussions about the fundamentals of tics: their characteristics, etiology, outcomes, and available treatments. Therapy should be individualized based on the extent of impairment, available support, ability to cope, and the presence of other problems. Indications for the treatment of tics include psychosocial problems (loss of self-esteem, comments from peers, excessive worries about tics, diminished participation in activities), functional difficulties, classroom disruption, and physical discomfort. A variety of behavioral approaches can be used. Recent studies have emphasized the value of comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics (CBIT). Because habit reversal is the major component of CBIT, a cooperative patient, the presence of a premonitory urge, and a committed family are essential ingredients for success. If tic-suppressing medication is required, a two-tier approach and monotherapy are recommended. First-tier medications, notably the α-adrenergic agonists, are recommended for individuals with milder tics, especially persons with both tics and ADHD. Second-tier medications include various typical and atypical neuroleptics. Their sequence of prescription is often based on physician experience; I favor pimozide and fluphenazine. Atypical antipsychotics, such as risperidone and aripiprazole, have some advantages based on their side-effect profile and are particularly beneficial in individuals with significant co-existing behavioral issues. As will become readily apparent, however, few medications have been adequately assessed. Deep brain stimulation is an emerging therapy, but further data are required to optimize the location of electrode placement and stimulation and to determine precise indications for its implementation. Stimulant medication is effective in treating ADHD in children with tics; studies reducing concerns about its use are discussed.