Saturday 21 May 2022 10:19 PM Tourette's syndrome: How a US surgeon beat the condition with his scalpel trends now
Widespread myths about Tourette’s syndrome are preventing young people from spotting early signs of the disability and seeking help, experts and patients living with the condition have warned.
Studies show that roughly half of all cases of the neurological disorder – which causes involuntary behaviours – are undiagnosed, leaving thousands without vital support.
‘There is a lack of understanding of the condition from the general public,’ said Dr Melina Malli, a researcher in Tourette’s syndrome at Manchester Metropolitan University. ‘People refer to stereotypes of what people with Tourette’s should do – like swearing – so those with less well-known symptoms might not be diagnosed.’
Dr Wilson Tsai was diagnosed with Tourette's when he was in medical school, despite that, he has become a heart and lung surgeon based in the United States (picture posed by model)
Studies show that roughly half of all cases of the neurological disorder – which causes involuntary behaviours – are undiagnosed, leaving thousands without vital support
The concern comes as an upcoming BBC radio documentary tries to dispel some of the most commonly held stereotypes about Tourette’s.
Presenter and campaigner Aidy Smith, who has Tourette’s, aims to guide listeners through the range of symptoms which span far beyond shouting obscenities – in fact, only ten per cent of people with Tourette’s exhibit such behaviour.
It is much more typical for sufferers to have vocal tics, such as coughs or grunts, and motor tics – involuntary movements – such as eye rolling, head nodding and jerking limbs.
One of the most fascinating people Smith meets is US-based heart and lung surgeon Dr Wilson Tsai, who has endured tics such as finger-clicking and repetitive blinking since he was seven. Remarkably, when he is operating – removing lung and oesophageal cancers – the tics completely disappear.
‘It gives me that moment in time when I am not in constant motion from the Tourette’s syndrome,’ he says.
Dr Tsai was finally diagnosed with Tourette’s while at medical school, which led a teacher to cruelly tell him 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 hardest paths in surgery. We really can do anything.’
Dr Tsai’s mysteriously vanishing