Essential Tremor

The following discussion is for general informational purposes only and is not meant to provide the reader with specific medical advice. Please consult with your personal physician, or with a neurologist, for specific advice, guidance and information regarding your particular circumstances.

Description: 

Essential tremor (ET) is the most common of the movement disorders - conditions that cause involuntary movement of one kind or another. While sometimes confused with Parkinson's disease by patients, it is quite different and does not lead to the disability that can be associated with Parkinson's disease. This condition affects about 1 in 5 people over the age of 65.

ET is familial, or inherited, in at least 50% of cases. There are aggravating factors that can make the tremor worse, such as stress, nicotine, caffeine, withdrawal from alcohol, and some medications. There are other conditions that can be confused with ET, for example, hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms: 

People with ET have rhythmic shaking movements of different parts of their body, especially the hands and head. Tremors can also be present in the voice and people with ET may have an unsteady quality of their voice. The hand tremors in general do not occur at rest, but are increased when one moves their hand or arm to do a specific activity. ET is usually most noticeable during simple activities such as writing and eating.

Diagnosis: 

Your physician can run appropriate tests looking for treatable causes of tremor. After that, appropriate medications can be prescribed to either cure the underlying condition or simply reduce the shaking.

Treatment: 

There is much that can be done to reduce or eliminate the tremor. Lifestyle issues need to be addressed (see above). Various medications are available to reduce the shaking. If these medications fail to solve the problem, Botox injections can be considered. If the condition is severe enough to warrant it, deep brain stimulation or other neurosurgical procedures can also be employed.

It is not necessary to just "live with" the shaking. Help is at hand.

Related Tests

Although there is no one test that will diagnose multiple sclerosis, we may run the following tests during your visit:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Spinal Tap
  • Evoked Potential Test - This test measures activity in the brain.

Related Links

Use these links to find out more information about this condition.

  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society
  • International Organization of Multiple Sclerosis Nurses
  • Local Support Group
  • New Link

A Diverse Practice

Dr. Melissa A. Carswell received a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology at Immaculata University in Pennsylvania. She completed both pre- and postdoctoral training in neuropsychology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in the Brain Behavior...More
Melissa A. Carswell, PSY.D.