Essential Tremor

Essential tremor (ET) is a neurological disorder that causes you to shake uncontrollably, mostly in your hands, head and even your voice.

ET is not usually a dangerous or life-threatening condition, but the symptoms can impact your quality of life and make many routine activities difficult. If you’re suffering from essential tremor, you may find it challenging to talk or perform tasks that require fine motor skills, such as getting dressed, eating, holding a cup and drinking or writing.

Risk Factors & Symptoms of Essential Tremor

Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder, affecting up to ten million people in the U.S. It can appear at any age, but it’s most common in adults 40 and older. You are also at risk if you have a family history of essential tremor, as researchers believe it can be passed down from a parent.

Symptoms of essential tremor typically begin slowly on one side of your body and get worse as you move. You might notice shaking in your hands first. Your head may involuntarily move up and down or side to side.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Essential Tremor

A neurologist will likely be able to diagnose essential tremor based on your symptoms and a neurological exam. There aren’t any diagnostic tests to determine if you have ET.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for essential tremor. If your symptoms are mild, you may not need treatment at all. But if ET is reducing your ability to function normally, there are options for treatment, including:

  • Medications. There are prescription medications that can help control ET. Botox may also be an option, as it’s been shown to improve vocal and head tremors.
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS). This is a surgical treatment for people who continue to experience severe symptoms, even while taking medication. DBS involves two surgeries – one to place electrodes in your brain and wires that travel to your chest, and another to implant and connect a neurostimulator in your chest. The neurostimulator sends pulses to the electrodes, interrupting abnormal brain signals and reducing tremors.

It’s important to talk to your Mercy neurologist about which treatment option is right for you. Our goal is to develop a treatment plan to minimize your symptoms and help you enjoy the fullest life possible.

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