Essential tremor is a movement disorder with involuntary rhythmic trembling of the muscles or back and forth oscillations that affect the body part while in motion. This neurologic condition is one of the most common movement disorders and is due, in part, to overactivity in certain areas of the brain.
Causes and Symptoms of Essential Tremor
The cause of essential tremor is still being investigated. Sometimes, the condition occurs in families and is called familial tremor.
Symptoms can vary in intensity, location and the age of onset. Although there are higher incidences of essential tremor (ET) in older age groups, adolescents and younger children can develop ET. Initial symptoms most often appear in the hands, but can also affect different areas:
tremors occur when the affected body part is kinetic—in motion
tremors may occur during daily actions such as drinking from a cup, writing, holding a paper or punching in numbers on your phone
shaking or quaking may occur in the head (jaw, chin, face tongue etc.), voice, hands, arms, trunk or legs
may affect one side of the body more than the other
tremors may be triggered by stress, fatigue or caffeine
Unlike Parkinson’s disease, the symptoms of ET do not manifest during rest or when the body is still.
How Is Essential Tremor Diagnosed?
A detailed medical history—including any history of familial tremor—and a comprehensive physical exam can help your neurologist accurately diagnose essential tremor.
State-of-the-Art Treatments for Essential Tremor at NSPC
For patients with essential tremor, especially children, occupational therapy can help mitigate some of the disease’s interference in daily life. Medications may also be useful, for instance beta-adrenergic blockers such as Propranolol or Primidone, anti-seizure drugs, benzodiazepines like Klonopin (Clonazepam), or botulinum toxin such as Botox. Head and voice shaking has been reduced with regular injections of Botox.
If the more conservative approaches are not successful in controlling the tremors, then surgical methods may be recommended.
Deep Brain Stimulation—some patients have called this treatment miraculous. This reversible and controllable treatment has been successful for several movement disorders including dystonia, Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.
Gamma Knife® Thalamotomy is a non-invasive procedure for patients who may not be candidates for deep brain stimulation. A cluster of cells in the thalamus, called the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM), is where the overactivity originates within the brain causing the symptoms of essential tremor. Gamma Knife thalamotomy uses radiation to target and destroy this tiny part of the thalamus, while keeping the surrounding healthy tissue.
With board-certified neurologists and neurosurgeons at Neurological Surgery, P.C. (NSPC) who specialize in movement disorders and their successful treatments, you can be confident in receiving the most safe and effective treatment for your condition, with the best possible results.
Our knowledgeable multidisciplinary staff and cutting-edge medical facilities are located in the New York region. NSPC’s award-winning doctors and specialists are leaders in the NY area, often serving as chiefs of neurosurgery in Long Island’s premier hospitals.