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Essential Tremor

What Is Essential Tremor?

Essential tremor is a neurological condition that causes different parts of the body to shake involuntarily. The hands are most commonly affected, but it can also cause shaking of the head, voice and legs.

Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder in the United States. It is not life-threatening, but it can impact daily activities like eating, dressing, and writing. It often gets worse over time, and can lead to disability in severe cases. There is no cure for essential tremor, but treatment can reduce symptoms.

The cause of essential tremor is not well understood, but it seems to involve the areas of the brain that control coordination. Two common themes in essential tremor are:

  • Age. Essential tremor often shows up in young adulthood, but many patients also develop symptoms in their 50s and 60s.
  • Genetics. Patients with essential tremor usually have family members with the disorder as well, but the severity can be very different between family members. Some genes have been identified with the disease, but not everyone with essential tremor has this gene or has a family member with the disease.

Essential Tremor Symptoms

Symptoms typically begin gradually and get worse over time, usually over years to decades. They may be more noticeable on one side of the body, but this might also be related to which hand is used more. Fatigue, stress, caffeine, nicotine and certain medications can make symptoms more noticeable.

Symptoms include:

  • Shaking. Shaking or trembling may begin in one or both hands. Shaking is most noticeable while doing tasks such as holding a utensil, writing or drinking from a cup.
  • Nodding. The head may move up and down, or side to side.
  • Voice changes. The voice may sound shaky.

When to Seek a Specialist

You should see a specialist if you’ve developed a new tremor, or if your tremor is interfering with daily activities like eating or getting dressed. You should also talk with your provider if you are taking medications for tremor and experiencing side effects.

Even if you are already being treated for essential tremor, you may want to seek a second opinion if you have questions about your treatment plan or aren’t experiencing positive changes in your symptoms. 

Learn more about the providers at the Temple Movement Disorders Program, or schedule an appointment here or by calling 800-TEMPLE-MED.

Why Temple Health for Essential Tremor

At Temple, specialists can treat your essential tremor and help you manage symptoms, so you can get back to your regular activities and improve your quality of life.
Movement disorders experts at the Temple Movement Disorders Program – one of the fastest-growing centers in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley –  offer specialized care for essential tremor. At Temple, you’ll get:

  • A team of specialists, including neurologist; ear, nose and throat physicians; and neurosurgeons with extensive experience in treating essential tremor
  • Specialized care from physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, nurse specialists, and other providers focused on supporting patients with movement disorders
  • Access to the latest diagnostic tools and treatments
  • Personalized medicine with a comprehensive treatment plan designed around your unique needs while living with essential tremor

Essential Tremor Treatment Options

Specialists at the Temple Movement Disorders Program have extensive experience in treating essential tremor and other movement disorders, with some of the most advanced diagnostic tools and treatment capabilities in the region.

Our specialists conduct a thorough neurological examination of each patient and may recommend additional tests to rule out other possible conditions. From there, they will make a diagnosis, and determine the best treatment plan for the person's individual situation.

Treatment options include:

  • Medication — Several medications have been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms of essential tremor. These include beta blockers like propranolol (a blood pressure drug), and certain anti-seizure medicines.
  • Botox — Botox injections may temporarily ease head and voice tremors. It is not typically used in the hands, as it can cause weakness.
  • Nerve stimulation — A device called a “Cala Trio” has been shown to reduce tremors. Worn as a wristband, the device triggers nerve and muscle activity with electronic stimulation.
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS) — Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is used to manage symptoms of certain neurological conditions. It delivers small electric simulations directly to the brain to reduce tremors and other involuntary movements. 
  • Lifestyle changes — Identifying and avoiding triggers like caffeine, stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep can sometimes help reduce symptoms. Simple devices like wrist weights, weighted utensils or stabilizing utensils can also help reduce symptoms.

Ready for an Appointment? 

If you’re experiencing signs or symptoms of essential tremor, the specialists at the Temple Movement Disorders Program can help diagnose and  work with you to treat your condition. Schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.