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Volume 9, Number 4Space holderJanuary 28, 2005

Zinner works to clear up Tourette misconceptions

UW pediatrician Samuel Zinner has been educating the public and professionals about Tourette syndrome through reports in Contemporary Pediatrics and his "Ask the Doctor" column in the local Tourette organization newsletter. Recently he spoke with Jane Brody for her Personal Health column in the Jan. 18 issue of The New York Times.

Misconceptions about Tourette have led it to be misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, thereby delaying treatment, he said. Contrary to popular belief, Tourette rarely causes outbursts of profanity or fits.

Tourette is defined by the presence of both motor and phonic tics and tics may vary in form, intensity, and frequency, according to Zinner. The patient usually feels the buildup of an urge that is alleviated by releasing a tic, which gives temporary relief. Some patients suppress tics at the cost of uneasy distraction. Because cases can be mild or go unnoticed, the disorder may be more common than people realize, Zinner noted.

Other problems, such as attention deficit, obsessive/compulsive disorder, anxiety, and learning disabilities, often accompany Tourette. Depending on their symptoms, some patients are treated with behavioral and supportive measures, as well as medication that may include alpha-adrenergic agonists, neuroleptics, or benzodiazepines.

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