Essential tremor is a medical condition that can significantly impact one’s quality of life and ability to perform basic and daily tasks.
Uncontrollable shaking of the hands and other parts of the body can interrupt the completion of daily tasks, like drinking from a glass, writing by hand, and using the computer or phone to send messages. Although not a life-threatening condition, essential tremor needs specific medications and treatment protocols in order to be managed successfully.
If you experience tremors and want to get to the bottom of your symptoms, read on to learn more about the condition and what can be done about it.
Defining Essential Tremor
Essential tremor is a condition caused by involuntary shaking, most commonly in the hands, and it stems from issues in the nervous system that cause added stress and neurological complications.
While essential tremor is not life-threatening, it can significantly interfere with one’s ability to function. Most people experience the first signs of essential tremor via hand tremors around the age of 40 or older.
Essential Tremor Vulnerabilities
Typically, essential tremor starts on one side of the body more significantly than the other and can create involuntary head movements, like nodding and shaking.
Symptoms of essential tremor include aggravation brought on by caffeine consumption, temperature changes, stress, and lack of mobility.
Genetic factors play a role in one’s development of essential tremor, such as defective genes and autosomal dominant disorder. In this genetic mutation, a person has a 50% chance of inheriting essential tremor.
The Diagnostic Protocol
Essential tremor is a condition that requires a medical diagnosis to effectively rule out other issues that may be the cause of symptoms.
Tests to determine the cause of tremor-related symptoms include neurological examinations, lab tests, and performance tests—all of which require checking the patient’s nervous system.
During neurological exams, you may be tested for posture, coordination, muscle tonality, reflexes, and more. Blood and urine samples may be needed to rule out thyroid or metabolic conditions, drug side effects, and unbalanced chemical levels.
Performance tests are simple evaluations whereby the doctor has the patient perform tasks like stretching out their arms, drawing spirals, writing and drinking from a glass.
Treatments Available For Essential Tremor
To treat essential tremor, the options vary based on the severity of the symptoms. If your tremor is mild enough, treatment may not be necessary.
If essential tremor symptoms interfere with daily functions, treatment options include beta-blockers, anti-seizure medications, tranquilizers, and Botox injections.
Supplementary treatments may consist of occupational and physical therapy if the tremor is severe enough. Therapists can show patients how to use specific exercises and relaxation techniques to improve symptoms and gain greater control over their tremors.
Surgery might become necessary if the patient does not respond to medication. Possible surgeries include deep brain stimulation (this is the most common surgical approach) or focused ultrasound thalamotomy.
Lifestyle Changes Are Necessary
Stress and anxiety reduction and exercising can also improve tremors. Practicing meditation and other relaxation techniques can make managing symptoms easier. Lifestyle changes may include switching to voice-activated technology to send messages to avoid tremors from writing.
In addition to these treatment protocols, dietary changes can also play a significant role in treating essential tremor. Avoiding caffeine and stimulants is necessary as these can increase tremors. Minimize or abstain from alcohol consumption to prevent activating tremors worsened by alcohol wear-off.
Essential Tremor Can Be Treated
Essential tremor is a serious condition that can be treated effectively with medication, lifestyle changes, therapy, and preventative care. Contact your doctor if you are experiencing tremors to determine the next steps for treatment.