There are many types of tremors, and causes of tremors, but the most common is benign essential tremor. Benign essential tremor is an involuntary, rhythmic shaking, usually of the hands and forearms, although it can affect your head or other body parts. It is more common than Parkinson’s disease, and most often occurs after age 40.
There is no definitive cause or cure for essential tremor, but it is known that if your parent has it, you have a 50 percent chance of developing it. The tremor is not dangerous, but people often find it embarrassing. It can be difficult to write or hold a cup without spilling, and when it affects the head it can be quite visible as a yes or no shaking motion.
Benign essential tremor does not typically affect mental function, but some people do find a little difficulty coping initially. Some things such as alcohol withdrawal or low blood sugar can also mimic essential tremor. Tremor is usually lessened with rest, and can be worse when you are stressed or emotionally upset. It does not always affect the body symmetrically, so one side may be worse than the other.
While there is no cure, there are treatments that may help you lessen your tremor a bit or learn to cope with it. Decreasing things that worsen tremor such as caffeine or other stimulants may help. Physical or occupational therapy can improve muscle control and coordination for some people.
Sometimes medications can help. Your health care provider may prescribe anti-seizure meds, beta-blockers or calcium channel blocking drugs that are commonly used to treat cardiac problems, or mild tranquilizers. Treatment of essential tremor is not always necessary unless it really bothers you or interferes with your daily life. Botox injections are also used in some cases, and if tremor is severe, an implantable brain-stimulating device as is used in Parkinson’s disease is also a possibility.
People do not always see a provider for tremor, but it is a good idea to do so. Even though benign essential tremor is the most common, there are medical conditions that cause tremor that can be treated. Some illnesses that can cause tremor are hyperthyroid, Wilson’s disease, pheocromocytoma, or Parkinson’s disease.
There are organizations where you can find information and support:
International Essential Tremor Foundation
Tremor Action Network
We Move: Worldwide Education and Awareness for Movement Disorders
Medline Plus: Essential Tremor
National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke: Essential Tremor Information Page