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Childhood Tics and Tourettes Syndrome

Ever wonder what causes childhood tics and Tourettes syndrome?

Google defines a “tic” as a habitual spasmodic contraction of the muscles, most often in the face. Joshua’s tics fit this definition. However, his tics weren’t relegated to just his face. He had “vocal tics” (where he’d make strange sounds) and other movements of body parts at random times.

Diagnostically speaking, one can be classified with Tourettes if both multiple motor and one vocal tic have been present during the illness. To have a diagnosis of “Tourettes,” you have to have had tics for over a year, without a three-month break in symptoms and it must occur before the age of 18. Well, we met all of those qualifications.

Some people would ask Joshua to “stop making disruptive noises.” I would ask him what would happen if he tried not to make the noise and he said it just kept coming up his throat and that it almost hurt if he tried to stop it. If we discussed it, or people asked him about it, it only made things worse, because he would put his attention on it, making it flair up. If he could have stopped it, believe me, he certainly would have.

When we discovered that there was a link between Strep throat and childhood tics and Tourettes, we had him tested for strep. He was positive, despite showing no positive signs for the illness (no sore throat, no redness, etc.). We placed him on a typical dosage of antibiotics for strep throat and within three days we saw a marked decrease. At this point we didn’t just guess, we had numbers. I spent a lot of time cataloging and clocking the different types of tics. recording how many he had. With this information we could see what was helping and what was making things worse.

In the end it turned out that Joshua had PANDAS, a not-so-rare version of Strep throat which causes these symptoms.

As a side note, it seems that rheumatic fever has something in common with PANDAS. in rheumatic fever, a person’s antibodies attack the heart causing heart damage. In PANDAS, the persons antibodies attack the brain and give us childhood tics and Tourettes symptoms.

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