Essential tremor is a neurological condition which can cause shaking or tremor of the hands, head, and voice. Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder, affecting over 10 million people in the United States.
Shaking, quivering, trembling, back and forth — almost fluttering — motions of the hands can start gradually, on one side of the body. These movements can also affect the chin, lips, and head — where it shakes up and down, or side to side — and voice. The tremors worsen with movement, such as when you are performing a task, and with stress and fatigue.
Essential tremors are not associated with any other symptoms, though in later stages your walk may become unsteady.
The condition is thought to be affected by the misfiring of electrical activity in the brain. About half of the patients who experience essential tremors may have inherited it — it does seem to run in families — but the exact gene is not known. The other half of those who have the condition have no family history; there is still research being done in this area.
While essential tremor is generally benign, it can interfere with your daily activities like writing, eating, and drinking. Fortunately, there are many resources available at St. Luke’s to help minimize the impact of this disease on your daily life.
- Occupational therapy can provide you with tools and instruments to make things easier, such as weighted cutlery and heavier drinking glasses
- Physical therapy can help you to improve your strength and coordination.
Essential tremor is diagnosed through a careful physical exam and a detailed medical history by your neurologist. Your medical provider may additionally check blood work or consider brain imaging to assess for any structural changes that may be related to your symptoms.
The treatments for essential tremor vary according to the severity of your condition. There are many medications which are helpful for reducing tremor symptoms. Botox® injections may be helpful for certain tremors. In certain cases, deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been very successful for controlling symptoms.