WhatsNew2Day
Latest News And Breaking Headlines

Tourette Syndrome: How an American Surgeon Beat the Condition With His Scalpel

Widespread myths about Tourette syndrome prevent young people from spotting early signs of disability and seeking help, experts and patients living with the condition have warned.

Studies show that about half of all cases of the neurological disorder, which causes involuntary behaviors, go undiagnosed, leaving thousands without life support.

“There is a lack of understanding of the condition by the general public,” said Dr. Melina Malli, a Tourette syndrome researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University. “People refer to stereotypes of what people with Tourette’s should do, such as swearing, so that those with lesser known symptoms go undiagnosed.”

Dr. Wilson Tsai was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome when he was in medical school, despite that he has become a cardiac and pulmonary surgeon in the United States (image of model)

Dr. Wilson Tsai was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome when he was in medical school, despite that he has become a cardiac and pulmonary surgeon in the United States (image of model)

Studies show that about half of all cases of the neurological disorder

Studies show that about half of all cases of the neurological disorder, which causes involuntary behaviors, go undiagnosed, leaving thousands without life support.

The concern comes as an upcoming BBC radio documentary attempts to dispel some of the most common stereotypes about Tourette syndrome.

Host and activist Aidy Smith, who has Tourette, aims to guide listeners through the range of symptoms that go far beyond yelling obscenities; in fact, only ten percent of people with Tourette’s exhibit such behavior.

It is much more common for patients to have vocal tics, such as coughing or grunting, and motor tics (involuntary movements), such as eye rolling, head nodding, and limb jerking.

One of the most fascinating people Smith meets is Dr. Wilson Tsai, a US-based heart and lung surgeon who has suffered from tics like finger snapping and repetitive blinking since he was seven years old. Surprisingly, when he is operating, removing lung and esophageal cancers, the tics completely disappear.

“It gives me that moment in time where I’m not constantly moving because of Tourette syndrome,” he says.

Dr. Tsai was eventually diagnosed with Tourette’s while in medical school, prompting a teacher to callously tell him that he would never be able to perform an operation.

“It actually motivated me to prove him wrong,” he says. “I think that’s why I chose one of the most difficult paths in surgery. We really can do anything.

Dr. Tsai’s mysteriously disappearing tics are not uncommon, and studies have found that people with Tourette’s often find that their symptoms suppress when they engage in a challenging mental task.

Smith, who was diagnosed with the condition when she was 10, has mostly motor tics and doesn’t swear or make inappropriate gestures. But at the age of 15 he discovered that speaking to an audience could make his tics almost disappear.

He says: ‘By the time I was on stage, my tics were reduced and the excess energy that would have built up in them became a catalyst for my success.’

On the show, Smith also talks with others who believe their Tourette syndrome has given them exceptional talents.

This phenomenon has been highlighted in several medical studies, particularly in regards to faster reflexes and increases in creativity, and is believed to be caused by sudden increases in the brain hormone dopamine that patients experience when they have a tic, although this link has not yet been established. tried.

Dr. Tsai believes his Tourette’s helped him develop exceptional martial arts skills from a young age, and he is now a black belt in jiu-jitsu.

About one percent of the world’s population has Tourette’s, and symptoms usually appear in childhood. Often the condition improves or goes away completely within a few years.

Emma McNally, chief executive of the Tourettes Action charity, says receiving a diagnosis in childhood is vital. She adds: ‘It allows the child to access networks and support services. If a child does not have support within the school, her education can be affected as well as her mental health.’

But Dr Jeremy Stern, a consultant neurologist at St George’s University Hospitals in south London, warns that getting a diagnosis is a challenge: “People can wait a year to get help from a specialist. Some children will seek help from mental health services but will not qualify if experts suspect Tourette’s because they do not specialize in the condition.’

Smith says that his years without a diagnosis, between the ages of seven and ten, were the “darkest of his life.” In an interview with her parents for his documentary, her father, Richard, says that one of the most heartbreaking aspects was seeing his son “crying and saying ‘please make it stop,’ which he obviously didn’t we could”.

Adds Richard: “The impersonations, the teasing… the adults watching and gossiping, thinking you’re just a misbehaving child, even the people moving elsewhere on trains to get away from you.” All because you had tics that you couldn’t prevent.

Treatment is available for Tourette syndrome, including cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people identify what triggers their tics and control them. There are also medications that affect dopamine levels.

But many people with Tourette’s also think that their condition doesn’t need treatment and that others should just accept their tics.

“Seeing more people with Tourette’s on TV shows would help,” says psychologist and Tourette’s expert Dr. Seonaid Anderson. “And the condition shouldn’t be the main focus of the story, but just another aspect of his character.”

  • The Truth About Tourette Syndrome is on BBC Radio 4 at 11am on May 31.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More