Everyone has some degree of tremor… an involuntary, rhythmic shaking, especially of the hands. For most people, the movements are so small they can not be seen or felt. However, many people develop a visible tremor, which may prompt fears of Parkinson’s disease, or another neurological disorder. In most cases though the problem is essential tremor… a common movement disorder. Essential tremors often appear in midlife, and gradually worsen with age. More than half of all cases occur in people who have a close relative with a tremor… suggesting a hereditary component.
The hallmarks of essential tremor are rapid or moderate shaking of the hands and fingers, and less frequently, the head, tongue, voice or other body parts. The tremor can worsen when the person is under emotional or physical stress.  Essential tremor is known as an “action tremor”… it usually occurs while the affected body part is in motion.  Tremors seen in Parkinson’s disease usually occur at rest, and are accompanied by additional symptoms.

For most people, essential tremor can be distressing, but is not debilitating.  Some people however may develop more severe symptoms, and may find performing simple tasks like writing or dressing difficult.  Tremor can at times be a source of embarrassment, leading a person to withdrawal socially.  Fortunately, there are treatment options which can provide some relief.

There are several approaches to coping with the disorder.  Your primary care provider can diagnose essential tremor.  Some people find that cutting back on coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages like cola can help.  The nicotine in cigarettes can aggravate tremors, so if you smoke, here is another reason to quit.  Stress, anxiety and fatigue may intensify tremors… some people have found relaxation techniques and support groups helpful.  If nonmedical approaches do not help, there are drug therapies that can be effective….. Johns Hopkins Medicine   July, 2012

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