Essential tremor is a nervous system disorder causing an involuntary shaking movement that is repeated over and over. Although essential tremor may affect any part of the body, it most often affects the hands, head and voice. Diagnosing essential tremor can be difficult. In some cases, medicine or brain surgery can help reduce the symptoms. The nationally renowned neurologists at The University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, VT have extensive experience with this condition.
Essential Tremor: An Overview
Essential tremor, which sometimes runs in families, is not usually a dangerous condition. The rhythmic shaking may also affect your feet, torso, arms or legs, but does not happen when you are still.
Essential tremor worsens over time and can be severe in some people. It isn't caused by other diseases, although it's sometimes confused with Parkinson's disease.
There are two known risk factors for developing essential tremor, including:
- Genetic mutation - Familial essential tremor is inherited essential tremor, and your risk for developing it is 50 percent if one of your parents has the defective gene
- Age - The condition is more common in people over 40
Diagnosis of Essential Tremors
There are no specific tests for diagnosing essential tremor. The University of Vermont Medical Center's neurologists are specially trained to diagnose this condition by ruling out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
Neurological Examination consists of a series of questions and tests to check the brain, spinal cord and nerve function. The exam checks a person's mental status, coordination, and ability to walk normally and how well the muscles, senses, and reflexes work. This may also be called a neuro exam or a neurologic exam.
Performance tests assess the tremor itself. Here are some tasks the doctor may ask you to do:
- Drink from a cup
- Hold out your arms
- Write words
- Draw a figure such as a spiral
Blood or urine tests help your doctor determine your essential tremor is not due to:
- Thyroid disease
- Metabolic issues
- Drug side effects
- Alcohol addiction
- Toxin exposure
Essential Tremors Treatments
If your essential tremor symptoms are mild, you may not need treatment. But you may want to talk to your physician about treatment options if you have difficulty working or enjoying your everyday activities. The neurology team at the University of Vermont Medical Center will work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your lifestyle.
Essential tremor treatment options at The University of Vermont Medical Center include:
Essential Tremor Therapy
Various forms of therapy may improve your functional abilities, such as:
- Physical Therapy- Physical therapy cannot cure an essential tremor but can help address some of the movement issues caused by an essential tremor.
- Occupational Therapy - With a focus on work-related activities, occupational therapy can improve the ability to function with an essential tremor.
Medications for Essential Tremor
Medications for essential tremor treatment may include:
- Botox (Botulinum Toxin) - Botox injections into certain muscles may reduce your essential tremor. Botox lasts about three months before you need another injection. Botox has some side effects, but they are generally mild.
- Beta Blockers - These medications are normally used to treat high blood pressure but can provide relief from essential tremor symptoms in some people.
- Tranquilizers - If tension or anxiety is making your essential tremor worse, your doctor may prescribe alprazolam (Xanax) or clonazepam (Klonopin). Use these medications cautiously because they can be habit-forming.
- Anti-Seizure Drugs - Drugs that are traditionally used to treat epilepsy can be helpful for some people with essential tremor.
DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) for Essential Tremor
DBS is surgical implantation that uses electrical pulses to your brain to help control your essential tremor. Neurosurgeons begin by implanting electrodes into a certain part of your brain. The electrodes are connected to a generator implanted in your chest that sends the electrical pulses to your brain. DBS settings may be adjusted as necessary.
For more information call 802-847-4590.