What's the treatment for Tourette's syndrome?
There is no known cure for Tourette's syndrome. Behavioral management techniques done at home, professional counseling, relaxation therapy, biofeedback, hypnosis and some medications are effective methods for treating the condition. Brain surgery is currently being studied as a treatment for tics. In mild cases of tic disorder, very little treatment may be needed. Typically, tics increase when the child is tense or stressed, and decrease when the child is relaxed or
focused on an absorbing task. The use of relaxation techniques or biofeedback may help the child deal with stress. Although some milder tic disorders may respond to behavioral therapies, Tourette's Syndrome generally does not. The best form of treatment is medicine.
A majority of patients with Tourette syndrome do not need to take drugs, as their tics do not interfere much with their lives, and they develop normally. In serious cases, a drug used to treat severe mental illness, such as haloperidol (Haldol) or pimozide (Orap), is given, starting with a very low dose and increasing until the tics respond without side effects occurring. Researchers are developing new antipsychotic drugs that may be targeted to particular symptoms of Tourette syndrome. Clonidine, a drug used to treat high blood pressure, works well against motor tics but may not always relieve vocal tics. Older children tend to do well with this drug, and side effects are less of a problem than with antipsychotic drugs. Clonidine helps Tourette syndrome children who have trouble focusing their attention, and also makes patients less frightened about their tics.
Medications used in Tourette syndrome should be tapered gradually to avoid worsening of symptoms when the drug is discontinued. It may be a good idea to simply observe a Tourette syndrome patient for weeks or even months before starting drug treatment. Usually, after two to three years, Tourette syndrome will be as severe as it is going to get. In the late teenage years, tics often get better by themselves. A calm, reassuring approach will help the patient and family to understand the condition and encourage them to cooperate with treatment. Tourette syndrome children may do quite well in a regular classroom, but those with severe tics should be in a setting that meets their needs, whether this means smaller or special classes, a private place to study, or tutoring.