March Is National Essential Tremor Awareness Month
This disorder causes physical and social challenges for millions of Americans.
Essential tremor is a neurological movement disorder that causes unintentional, somewhat rhythmic shaking or movement of the hands and head. It is often confused with Parkinson’s disease and other conditions that cause shaking. Involuntary movements of the hands interfere with the tasks of daily living. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes the head movements as resembling a “yes-yes” or “no-no” motion. The patient’s voice and legs also may be affected.
The International Essential Tremor Foundation (IETF) is the sponsoring organization of the awareness event, which is now in its third year. The IETF worked for this recognition because although nearly 10 million Americans have essential tremor, many people are unfamiliar with the disorder. The IETF says, "While not life-threatening, essential tremor is a serious and progressive condition that can seriously affect a person’s quality of life—socially, professionally and emotionally. People with essential tremor often have difficulty with everyday activities such as getting dressed, eating, drinking, speaking or writing."
What causes essential tremor?
The cause of essential tremor is as yet unknown, though neurology studies underway may lead to better understanding. Evidence points to essential tremor being hereditary.
How is essential tremor diagnosed?
It is very important that this disorder be diagnosed early so treatment can begin, and also to rule out other causes of the symptoms, for which treatment might be quite different. Essential tremor is best diagnosed by a specialist in movement disorders.
Can essential tremor be cured or treated?
While there is no cure for essential tremor, several types of treatment may offer improvement. Treatments include:
- Dietary changes, such as avoiding caffeine and other stimulants
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Deep brain stimulation
Research is underway on several new treatments.
Is essential tremor a disease of older people?
No. According to the International Essential Tremor Association, children and middle-aged people can develop essential tremor. The condition has even been diagnosed in newborns.
Will essential tremor become worse as patients age?
Sometimes essential tremor is progressive, meaning it becomes worse through the years. A patient whose hands were affected by the disease may find that the tremor now appears in the head, voice, legs or trunk. Other patients live with stable, mild essential tremor for many years.
If you or a loved one is living with essential tremor, it is important to learn all you can about the disorder. This will help you receive the most effective treatment and to learn coping strategies to allow you to live life to the fullest. Remember, you are not alone! According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, eight times as many people have essential tremor as have Parkinson’s disease.
Begin your online learning by visiting these websites:
- The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, one of the National Institutes of Health, offers information and research updates on essential tremor.