1. Why is it called essential tremor?
Essential tremor (ET) is a neurological condition that causes involuntary shaking or trembling. It’s one of the most commonly known motor disorders that has affected approx 1% of the world population.
Since tremor is the key symptom of ET and its diagnosis is based on the presence of tremor, hence it’s called ET. The terms ET was first used in 1874 by an Italian professor named Pietro Burresi.
2. How many people are affected by this condition?
ET is a growing health concern worldwide. There are approximately 41 million people around the world who are suffering from this condition. In the USA alone, there are more than 7 million cases that correspond to 2.2% of the USA population.
3. Who is at higher risk of developing essential tremor?
Although ET can appear at any age, those who are over the age of 40 are commonly affected. It is estimated that more than 4% of the world population over the age of 40 are suffering from this disorder. Especially, those who are over 65 are more susceptible.
4. Are there any other signs appear beside tremor?
Besides tremor, the impaired gate is another motor sign of ET. Like tremor, it can also bother the patient’s daily life.
Essential tremor also has some non-motor features. The most common non-motor symptoms include cognitive deficits, hearing loss, and personality changes. In addition, people with ET may also experience sleep problems.
5. Besides hands, what other parts are affected by essential tremor?
Tremor is the key symptom of ET that appears in hands. Besides hands, the tremor may also affect body parts like the head, neck, tongue, jaw, and legs.
6. What causes essential tremor?
Although the exact cause of ET is still unknown, researchers have identified a number of factors that may increase the risk of developing this disorder.
Genetics plays a big role in the development of ET. About 50-70% of patients have a family history. Although more than 11 defective genes have been known that are linked to ET, no ET-specific gene mutations have yet been identified.
There are numerous environmental toxins that are known to cause or increase the risk of developing ET. These include pesticides, mercury, lead, and harmane.
Increasing age could also be a risk factor for ET. The chances of developing the disease increase as a person gets older.
7. Essential tremor is an action tremor, what does it mean?
Essential tremor is usually called an action tremor. It is because of the fact that the tremor appears when the hands are in action; for example, when the hands are busy performing different activities like drinking, eating, and writing. The tremor disappears when the hands are at rest.
8. How to diagnose essential tremor?
There is no specific test available for the diagnosis of ET. In the clinic, a patient is first checked for the presence of tremor. To confirm whether the tremor is linked to essential tremor, a patient is asked to write, draw, or drink water from a glass.
A patient is also tested for abnormality in the nervous system functioning like muscle strength, gait, and posture.
In addition, the patient’s family history is checked to confirm whether any family member has the condition.
9. What treatment options are available for essential tremor?
Medication is the most effective way of dealing with ET. The most common drugs used to treat ET include primidone and propranolol. Primidone is a beta-blocker that is used as first-line therapy. Propranolol is an anti-epileptic drug and is prescribed when a patient is not responding to primidone. When both drugs failed to improve the tremor, a drug called botox is used in the form of injection.
A surgical procedure called deep brain stimulation is used when medications are no longer effective in controlling the tremor. This approach is considered to be very effective and become a routine treatment for people with tremors.
10. Besides medication, what other approaches should be used to deal with essential tremor?
Medication can certainly reduce complications of ET, but it’s not the only way to deal with it. There are other approaches that need to be considered in order to feel and live much better with this condition. For example, a patient should do the following hand exercises:
- Flicking the hand
- Squeezing or rolling a ball for few seconds
- Spinning the pen
- Resistance training; dumbbell bicep curls, wrist flexion, and wrist extension exercises
In addition, the use of the following assistive devices may help to reduce the tremor’s effect during eating or drinking.