How is Tourette's syndrome (TS) diagnosed?

There are currently no X-rays or lab tests that can be performed to confirm a TS diagnosis. The clinical diagnosis of TS is based on a combination of factors, including:

  • Careful and detailed medical and family history.
  • Complete physical and neurological exam (the results of these exams are usually normal but may sometimes be needed to rule out other illnesses).
  • Onset of involuntary movements (tics) between the ages of 3 and 21.
  • Presence of recurrent, multiple motor and vocal tics, but not necessarily occurring at the same time.
  • Tics that occur many times a day, nearly every day or on and off throughout the duration of a year or longer.
  • Changing severity of tics and change in the number, frequency, type and location of tics.
  • Duration of symptoms for more than one year.

Differentiating tics from other types of uncontrollable movements (such as myoclonus, chorea, athetosis, and dystonia) can be done by history and by observation of the involuntary movements.

An accurate diagnosis is sometimes difficult in patients who have a relatively recent onset of tics or in those who do not have all of the symptoms of TS as listed previously.

Electroencephalogram (EEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CAT scan or X-ray of the brain) tests are not needed to confirm a TS diagnosis but may be performed to rule out other neurological conditions.

Medical researchers are looking for biological "markers" which may be useful in diagnosing patients even before clinical signs are present.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/06/2015.

References

  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke. Tourette Syndrome Fact Sheet. Accessed 6/1/2020.
  • Tourette Association of America. What is Tourette. Accessed 6/1/2020.
  • Centers for Disease Control. Learn About Tourette Syndrome. Accessed 6/1/2020.
  • NHS. Tourette's syndrome. Accessed 6/1/2020.
  • Bitsko RH, Holbrook JR, Visser SN, Mink JW, Zinner SH, Ghandour RM, Blumberg SJ. A national profile of Tourette syndrome, 2011-2012. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2014 Jun;35(5):317-22.
  • Williams NR and Okun MS. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) at the interface of neurology and psychiatry. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2013;123(11):4546–4556.

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