Tourette Syndrome Treatment
Although the disorder is generally lifelong and chronic, proper treatment for Tourette syndrome can result in a decrease of symptoms. Treatment often includes medication to manage tics and behavioral problems, as well as psychotherapy, which helps eliminate any psychological problems that may result. It is important to understand the side effects that can occur with any medications used for treating the condition.
Because tic symptoms do not often cause harm, the majority of people with Tourette syndrome require no medication for tic suppression. However, effective medications are available for those whose Tourette syndrome symptoms interfere with functioning. There is also medication that can be used as a treatment for the behavioral conditions that can occur.
Keep in mind, however, that there is no one medication that is helpful for all people as a Tourette syndrome treatment, nor does any medication completely eliminate the symptoms of Tourette syndrome. In addition, any medication can have side effects.
Antipsychotic medication is most commonly used to suppress tics as part of treating Tourette syndrome. A variety of these medications are available, but some are more effective than others (for example, haloperidol and pimozide).
Several side effects can occur with antipsychotic medication. Most of these can be managed by initiating treatment slowly and reducing the dose when side effects occur. The most common side effects of antipsychotic medications include:
- Weight gain
- Cognitive dulling.
Neurological side effects include:
- Dystonic reactions (twisting movements or postures)
- Parkinsonian-like symptoms.
Other dyskinetic (involuntary) movements are less common and are readily treated by reducing the dose of medicine. Stopping antipsychotic medications after long-term use must be done gradually to avoid rebound increases in tics and withdrawal dyskinesias.
One form of withdrawal dyskinesia, called tardive dyskinesia, is a movement disorder different from Tourette syndrome that may result from the chronic use of antipsychotics. Using lower doses of antipsychotics for shorter periods of time can reduce the risk of this side effect.
Other medications may also be used to treat Tourette syndrome, but most have not been as extensively studied or shown to be as consistently useful as antipsychotics. Additional medications with demonstrated effectiveness include alpha-adrenergic agonists, such as clonidine and guanfacine. These medications are used primarily for hypertension (high blood pressure), but are also used in the treatment of tics. The most common side effect from these medications is sedation.