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:
Postural tremor—shaking in certain positions only, such as with arms outstretched
Kinetic or action tremor—shaking that gets worse during activities, such as eating or shaving
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.
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.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 3/7/2018
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