Many kids with Tourette’s get better with time

By Melissa Schorr

NEW YORK, Jun 25 2001 (Reuters Health) - Children diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by uncontrollable behavioral tics and verbal slurs, have an excellent chance of improving by young adulthood, a new study reports.

“The most common question parents have when their children have been diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome is ‘What does this mean for our future?’” Dr. Larry Burd, an epidemiologist at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Grand Forks, told Reuters Health. “This is an optimistic condition. The really severe complexes you see on TV are very atypical. Most are going to have some difficulty in childhood, but they will do well as adolescents and adults.”

The researchers tracked down 39 patients who had been diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome when they were around 10 years old. The average age of the patients during the new study was about 23.

The patients were asked whether they had improved, had fewer verbal tics and were still using medication for the disorder. The results were published in the June issue of the Journal of Child Neurology.

The researchers found that the patients’ tics decreased by 59%, their overall functioning was improved 50%, and the average number of related problems, such as attention deficits and learning disabilities, had decreased by 42%.

“The bottom line is, at follow-up, 44% were essentially symptom-free,” Burd said. “This is very satisfying prognostic news.”

However, 10% of the patients in the study had increased severity of tics and 20% were unchanged from their first assessment.

The researchers also found that only 22% of the patients were still on medication, suggesting that patients with Tourette’s syndrome should re-evaluate the drugs they are taking as they reach adolescence and young adulthood.

“If you’re on medication, you should periodically talk with your doctor,” Burd advises, “and consider cutting back to see if you still need it.”

SOURCE: Journal of Child Neurology 2001;16:431-437.