Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder and typically affects individuals in later adulthood (40 years and older). In patients with this disease, specific regions of the brain generate fluctuating electrical signals that travel to the muscles, inducing rhythmic trembling of the hands, head, legs, trunk and/or voice. This can make it difficult for people diagnosed with essential tremor to hold a glass, write, eat and perform other tasks.
What Causes Essential Tremor?
The cause of essential tremor is unknown. However, one theory suggests that it occurs when your cerebellum (which controls muscle coordination) and other parts of your brain are not communicating correctly.
In most people, the condition seems to be passed down from a parent to a child. If your parent has ET, there is a 50% chance you or your children will inherit the gene responsible for the condition.
What Are the Symptoms of Essential Tremor?
The main characteristics of essential tremor are shaking and trembling, but they can occur during different times and situations for each person.
Other signs of essential tremor include:
- Tremors that are most obvious in your hands
- Difficulty doing tasks with your hands, such as writing or using tools
- Shaking or quivering sound in your voice
- Tremors that become worse with movements
- Uncontrollable head-nodding
- In rare instances, tremors in your legs or feet
How Is Essential Tremor Diagnosed?
In order to accurately diagnose essential tremor, your doctor will need to rule out other conditions that also cause shaking or trembling. Tests can be performed, and your doctor may also have you cut out:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Certain medications
How Is Essential Tremor Treated?
Depending on the severity of the condition, specialists may recommend treatment plans ranging from medication to therapy. In patients whose symptoms can’t be managed this way, doctors may perform deep brain stimulation surgery, which involves the implantation of electrodes that send electrical impulses into the brain. This procedure has proven to be effective in many patients.