CNI Movement Disorders Center
Education & Information
Facts about Essential Tremor
Essential tremor (ET) is the most common neurologic movement disorder—affecting as many as 10 million people in the United States. It is sometimes referred to as Familial tremor. It is a chronic condition characterized by involuntary, rhythmic tremors of a body part, mainly the hands and upper extremities. ET is an action tremor which means the tremor is activated by a certain action-usually handwriting, drinking from a cup, using utensils or using fine hand movements. It may progress to head, voice, trunk and legs.
ET is due to abnormal communication between certain areas of the brain, including the cerebellum, thalamus and brain stem. For most people with ET, the tremor seems to be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. This means that each child of a parent with ET has approximately a 50% chance of inheriting a gene that causes ET. Researchers have already located two genes that predispose to ET and are currently trying to locate others. At this time, there is no genetic test for ET.
Not everyone who inherits the gene develops symptoms, and likewise some people have ET and have no family history of tremor. ET affects people of all races and affects men and women equally. ET most commonly occurs in individuals after age 40.
Signs and Symptoms
A diagnosis of ET is made solely on clinical exam. The patient usually seeks medical help due to a disabling tremor and difficulty performing activities of daily living. Hand tremor is the most prominent sign of ET and occurs when the person is in a fixed position (outstretched arms) or action when a person is using their hands such as eating, drinking or writing.
Numerous medications are available to treat tremors, including Primadone (Mysoline), Propranalol (Inderal), Clonazepam (Klonopin) and Botulinim Toxin (Botox). Alcohol reduces tremors for 1-2 hours after consumption. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) of the thalamus can effectively reduce tremors when all medications have failed.
For more information, please visit International Essential Tremor Foundation at www.essentialtremor.org. or www.wemove.org.