by Annie Stuart
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. Two types of tremor are common with ET:
ET can be socially isolating in some cases. It may interfere with normal daily activities such as writing or speaking.
Family history of tremors is the only known risk factor for ET. The condition may occur at any age. It is more likely to occur in teens and people older than 50 years old.
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.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and your medical and family history. A physical exam will be done. Attention will be paid to the central nervous system. There are no special tests to diagnose ET. You may have blood, urine, or other tests to rule out other causes, like:
Most people with ET do not require treatment. Mild tremors may be relieved or even eliminated by simple measures, including:
The following treatment options may be helpful:
Surgery may be an option in rare cases where tremors are disabling and medications don’t help. Two approaches are possible.
International Essential Tremor Foundation
Parkinson Society Canada
Essential tremor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what . Updated October 10, 2012. Accessed May 22, 2013.
Essential tremor. International Radiosurgery Support Association website. Available at: http://www.irsa.org/essential_tremor.html . Accessed May 22, 2013.
Facts about essential tremor. International Essential Tremor Foundation website. Available at: http://essentialtr... . Accessed May 22, 2013.
Lorenz D, Deuschl G. Update on pathogenesis and treatment of essential tremor. Current Opinions in Neurology . 2007;20:447-452.
Sadeghi R, Ondo WG. Pharmacological management of essential tremor. Drugs . 2010:70(17):2215-28.
Smaga S. Tremor. Am Fam Physician . 2003;68(8):1545-1552.
What is essential tremor? Who gets ET? International Essential Tremor Foundation website. Available at: http://essentialtremor.org/About-ET . Accessed November 12, 2012.
Last reviewed May 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD; Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 3/18/2013