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Benign essential tremor (ET) is a movement disorder most commonly noticed by shaking in the hands. It occurs in about 5% of older adults. It may also cause shaking of the head, voice, arms, and trunk. It occurs less often in the legs and feet. The 2 types of tremor that are common with ET include:
ET can be socially isolating in some cases. It may interfere with normal daily activities such as writing or speaking.
A tremor is a problem with how the nerves and brain talk to the muscles. This problem causes the abnormal movements. For some people, this is caused by a genetic mutation. For others, the cause is not clear.
A family history of tremors is the only known risk factor for essential tremor. The condition may occur at any age. It is more likely to occur in teens and people older than 50 years old.
Essential tremor (ET) is generally not serious, but its severity may vary and worsen over time. Symptoms may include:
Tremors must not be related to other health conditions in order for someone to have the ET diagnosis.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. The doctor will be able to see the tremor. How the tremor behaves and what part of the body it affects will also be noted. The doctor may also look for other signs of changes in the nervous system. This may include changes in smell or hearing or loss of balance.
Most people with essential tremor do not require treatment. Mild tremors may be relieved or even eliminated by simple measures, including:
The following treatment options may be helpful:
Benign essential tremor may be treated with:
Surgery may be an option in rare cases where tremors are disabling and medications do not help. There are 2 possible approaches.
There are no current guidelines to prevent benign essential tremor.
International Essential Tremor Foundation
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
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Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 3/7/2018