Essential Tremor

What is essential tremor?

Essential tremor is a common condition which causes an uncontrollable shaking or trembling of the hands, legs or head. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but it tends to run in families. It is most commonly diagnosed in people older than 60 but might also occur in younger adults and adolescents. Treatment is often not needed, but this condition can be managed with medication if the tremor interferes with daily activities. Some people find their tremor annoying or embarrassing, but it tends to not cause any other health problems.

Risks

The exact causes of an essential tremor are not known but the possibility that it can be attributed to dysfunctions in part of the brain that controls movements is sometimes discussed. Essential tremor can run in families. It is most commonly diagnosed in people older than 60 but might also occur in younger adults and adolescents.

Symptoms

The main symptom of an essential tremor is an involuntary, quick, fine shaking of the hands and, less commonly, the legs. This may affect the ability to hold objects and write. Some people have a tremor affecting the head, which causes quick head nodding or bobbing. The symptoms may be made worse by stress and caffeine.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is usually made based on the symptoms, the appearance of the tremor and examination of the neurological system. Sometimes a blood test to check liver function or a MRI scan of the head might be needed to exclude other causes of tremor.

Treatment

Treatment is often not needed if the tremor is mild and does not cause any difficulty completing tasks. Some medications usually used to treat high blood pressure or seizures can help with tremor when used at low doses. If medication is not helpful, very severe cases can be treated with brain surgery. This is uncommon.

Other names for essential tremor

  • senile tremor