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article by L Zuker

The following article is based on the presentation regarding the prevalence/epidemiology of TS by Professor Mary M. Robertson, which she gave at the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada International Symposium and National Conference, on, September 15, 2006. Dr Robertson is a professional advisor to the TSFC.

Previously, Tourette Syndrome was thought to be quite rare; an estimated 5 out of 10,000 people, or 0.05%. This was based on studies which, while scientifically valid, were limited because they were based on a small number of cases. But numerous epidemiological studies between 1980 and the present, which were based on significant numbers of people and conducted all over the world, have shown that the prevalence of TS is estimated to be between 0.4% and 1.76% of children 5 to 18 years of age, depending on age, gender, and season. Since TS is lifelong, these estimated numbers should hold for any age group, which would mean that in Canada, with a total population of 32 million people, there are approximately 320 thousand people with TS. These studies have also shown that TS affects all social classes, all cultures, all racial groups, and is present all over the world except in Sub-Saharan Black Africa for unknown reasons. The prevalence of all tic disorders, including transient tics, TS, and other tic disorders, is an estimated 4% to 28%, depending on age, gender, and season.

One other particularly interesting notion from some early research, is that TS may be partly caused by environmental factors, such as strep infection or pre-natal exposure to alcohol or smoking. While it remains clear that TS is a genetic disorder, the genes involved may be triggered by one or more environmental factors, which would mean that not everyone who has TS genes will develop TS. The research on the possible connection between environmental factors and TS is still preliminary and nothing has been proven scientifically to date.

Lawrence Zuker, President of th Ottawa Chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada has written this article based on a presentation at the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada’s National Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, September 2006.
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