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Is an Essential Tremor Serious?

Oct 01, 2023
Is an Essential Tremor Serious?
Occasional muscle spasms and twitches can be annoying, but when your body frequently jerks and moves involuntarily, it’s more than a tick — it could be an essential tremor. Here’s what you need to know.

If you’ve ever had shaky hands when performing a task under stress, you know what a tremor is — involuntary trembling. 

When tremors occur often and without the stimulus of a stressful situation, it indicates a neurological condition and can affect more than just your hands. There are many types of tremors, and each type has a few subcategories, but they all signify a problem with your nervous system. 

Our neurologists at Advanced Medical Care in Queens and Brooklyn, New York, diagnose and treat all types of neurological conditions, including tremors. This blog focuses on essential tremors, one of the most common movement disorders. 

Essential tremors 101

Tremors are signs of a problem in your central nervous system — specifically, a problem in your cerebellum, the part of your brain that controls your movements. They can be symptoms of a neurological disease like a stroke, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease, but they can also develop on their own, like essential tremors.

Essential tremors are also called familial tremors because they can run in families. Up to 70% of essential tremor cases are inherited. 

One of the hallmark symptoms of essential tremors is shaky hands and arms, affecting both limbs at once (although you may notice one side is worse than the other).

You may also notice that the tremors worsen with movement, caffeine consumption, fatigue, extreme temperatures, and stress.

In some people, the tremors are mild and never progress, but in others, the tremors migrate to other body parts, affecting your voice, lower limbs, and head, causing you to nod up and down or side to side. People of all ages can develop essential tremors, but they most often appear in teens and adults aged 40-50. 

Are essential tremors serious?

Essential tremors aren’t a serious health concern; they’re simply a sign you have an altered gene. Essential tremors don’t indicate you have a disease. However, essential tremors can affect your quality of life. For example, you may have difficulty:

  • Eating and drinking without spilling
  • Shaving your face
  • Applying makeup
  • Buttoning a shirt
  • Writing
  • Speaking

Although these aren’t life-threatening problems, they can be disruptive and embarrassing and can contribute to mental health issues like depression and anxiety. 

Is it essential tremors or Parkinson’s disease?

At first glance, essential tremors seem to mimic Parkinson’s disease symptoms, but there are some key differences:

Essential tremors in the hands occur during movement; Parkinson’s hand tremors occur when the hands are at rest.

Essential tremors are only tremors; Parkinson’s disease also leads to foot-dragging, slower movements, and a hunched posture.

Essential tremors typically stick to the hands, head, and voice; Parkinson’s starts in the hands and spreads throughout the body.

Treatments for essential tremors

Mild essential tremors don’t need treatment, but if severe essential tremors are disrupting your life, we can help.

Our neurologists use cutting-edge technology to diagnose essential tremors and rule out other possible neurological conditions. Then, we develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific symptoms. Your treatment could include:

  • Therapy, including physical and occupational, to improve muscle strength and coordination
  • Adaptive tools, such as heavier glasses and wider, grippier pens and pencils
  • Assistive wearable devices
  • Botox® injections to reduce tremors
  • Medications to reduce tremors

We help you manage your essential tremors and live with fewer, less frequent episodes. Learn more about essential tremors and our treatments by contacting Advanced Medical Care by phone or online to schedule an appointment. 

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At Advanced Medical Care, care is not just a part of our name — it is in our hearts. Our providers strive to put our patients first and find solutions to meet their needs on every level. If you’re ready to start improving your health, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at our office in Queens or Brooklyn.