#2. There Is No Cure, and the Treatments Are Awful
Treatment isn't exactly a get-out-of-tics-free card. The medication that Tyler takes, called pimozide, can cause serious problems, ranging from the simply terrifying, like irregular heartbeat and difficulty breathing, to the just plain weird, like "fine, worm-like tongue movements." The same is true for a medication called Geodon that Ben takes, which also came with a delicious side of weight gain and mood swings.
It causes excess saliva and dry mouth. And, in the elderly, death.
Kel started using a transdermal patch called clonidine, which works by lowering your blood pressure to decrease the severity of tics, but all he got were chest pains. That's because Kel was in the unlucky 20 percent of Tourette's syndrome patients that clonidine doesn't do jack for. Fortunately, he wasn't out much for the relatively inexpensive patches, but tons of patients have sunk build-your-own-mech amounts of money into supposed miracle procedures that don't do a thing.
Tyler's family spent $30,000 on intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) -- twice -- hoping to treat the underlying autoimmune disorder that causes his Tourette's syndrome. Somebody forgot to tell them that IVIg hasn't actually been proved effective for his particular disorder. We're sure the hospitals didn't cash those checks yet, though. They'd probably be happy to refund all that dough.
"Oh, come on. That's no more expensive than like six aspirins."
Deep brain stimulation is a much-hyped procedure that Ben is considering. It consists of an electrical device surgically implanted in your brain to short circuit the errant signals. That's some pretty awesome-sounding sci-fi-caliber stuff, but unfortunately, it has turned out not to be as promising as the study authors had hoped. It's less effective for verbal tics than physical ones, and even Ben's doctor agrees that it's not ready to treat Tourette's syndrome.
Christie had the procedure anyway, and she says it has made her tics less severe, but they're still not gone completely. While she's less reliant on her wheelchair, she still needs snuggles from her service dog to help calm her. We really hope some doctor prescribed those in a high-stakes medical setting: "Nurse, this woman needs 1,500 ccs of nuzzles, stat!"
"But, doctor, that much nuzz-"
"Just get it done, damn it!"
#1. Many Things Cause Tourette's-Like Symptoms, and You Could "Catch" Them
If you believe pop culture, diagnosing Tourette's syndrome is a simple matter of waiting for the patient to scream "SHITNAZIS," dutifully recording the presence of the Fecal Reich in a notebook, and then presenting them with a free badge to say anything they damn well please. But in reality, it is shockingly difficult to diagnose Tourette's syndrome. Many disorders can cause similar symptoms.
Some people have tourettism, but not Tourette's. Confused?
It's not uncommon for Tourette's syndrome to go hand in hand with OCD, as in Tyler's and Ben's cases, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Does Ben's relentless urge to twitch his neck three times on each side count as a compulsion or a tic? What about Tyler's "constant need to play with my face and hair, because sometimes they feel uneven"? Even they couldn't tell you.
Tyler's official diagnosis isn't Tourette's syndrome at all, but pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (which science has given the adorable acronym PANDAS -- who cares if it's skipping a word: PANDAS!). On the subject of how PANDAS causes tics, science has settled on a resounding "I dunno, Gypsy curse, maybe?"
This panda makes the corners of your lips curl upward involuntarily.
It likely has something to do with the way antibodies produced in response to viral infections get confused and attack the wrong cells. It can be brought on by something as common and simple as a case of strep throat.
Let's stress that point: Did you have strep as a kid? Take a moment now and pause to thank whatever divine entity you believe in (we suggest He-Man) for the lucky fact that you aren't uncontrollably flailing so hard that you break your own bones.
Related Reading: Did you know all those "safe weight loss" ads are modeled by wildly unhealthy people? Or that bed bugs means being covered in Vaseline all the time? Do you have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.
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