What is essential tremor?
Essential tremor is a disorder of the nervous system that is characterized by involuntary and rhythmic shaking. It is usually a progressive condition but is not typically dangerous to the affected individual.
What are the symptoms of essential tremor?
Involuntary movements are the major symptom of this disease, and they usually begin in one side of the body and progress gradually. Movement can worsen the symptoms, as can emotional stress, fatigue, extreme temperatures, and caffeine.
Tremors start in the hands first, then progress to the rest of the body. A common movement is a shaking or nodding of the head.
While this condition is not usually dangerous, it can make life more difficult. For example, affected individuals may have trouble holding cups, eating, talking, writing, shaving, or putting on make-up.
What causes essential tremor?
There is a genetic factor that causes about half of cases. For the other half, there is no known cause. If one inherits the mutated gene, it is passed down in an autosomal dominant pattern. The only other known risk factor is age, as this condition tends to impact those over the age of 40.
How is essential tremor diagnosed?
Doctors will perform a physical examination, ask about medical and family history, and look for characteristic symptoms. While there is no test specific to this condition, doctors will typically perform a neurological exam, blood and urine tests, and performance tests. These are done to rule out other conditions.
What are the treatments for essential tremor?
If symptoms are mild, treatment may not be necessary. If they impact daily life, doctors may prescribe tranquilizers, beta blockers, Botox injections, or anti-seizure medications. Physical and occupational therapy is often helpful as well.
If medication does not work, and symptoms are very severe, surgery may be an option. Doctors will perform deep brain stimulation or a focused ultrasound thalamotomy.