Essential Tremor & Other Tremor Disorders

Essential Tremor Disorder

Essential tremor disorder is a nerve disorder. It is also called a trembling disorder. It causes a person’s hands, head, trunk, voice or legs to shake rhythmically and is often confused with Parkinson disease.

A tremor can also be a symptom of another disease or condition. So it’s important to see your health care provider for a diagnosis.

Who is likely to get essential tremor?

Almost everyone has some essential tremor. However, these movements usually cannot be seen or felt. It’s called essential tremor when the movements can be noticed.

Essential tremor is most common in people older than 65. But it can affect people at any age and the condition seems to run in families.

For some people, essential tremor is mild and never gets any worse. For others, it starts on one side of the body and eventually works its way to the other side. The hands are the most common part of the body affected. Some people also have changes in the way they walk (gait).

What are the symptoms of essential tremor?

People with essential tremor have shaking and trembling at different times and in different cases. But some symptoms are common to all.

Symptoms include:

  • Tremors occur when you move and are less noticeable when you rest
  • Tremors get worse when you take certain medicines
  • Tremors get worse after you have caffeine or when you are stressed
  • Tremors get worse as you get older
  • Tremors don’t affect both sides of the body in the same way

Here are different signs of essential tremor:

  • Tremors that are most noticeable in your hands
  • Difficulty doing things with your hands, such as writing or using tools
  • Shaking or quivering in your voice
  • Head-nodding that you can’t control
  • In rare instances, you may have tremors in your legs or feet

How is essential tremor diagnosed?

Your physician may do any of the following:

  • Ask you questions about your medical and family history
  • Look at your trembling symptoms
  • Rule out other conditions that could cause the shaking or trembling. For example, tremors can be symptoms of diseases like hyperthyroidism or Parkinson’s disease.

In some cases, the tremors might be related to other factors. To find out for sure, your provider may have you:

  • Stop drinking alcohol. For individuals who struggle with alcohol addiction, trembling is a common symptom.
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Avoid certain medicines