Essential Tremor

A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed

Credit: Bill Branson (Photographer)

Introduction

Essential tremor—also referred to as “ET”—is considered to be both the most common of movement disorders and neurological conditions. Additionally, this is the most common underlying cause of tremors in individuals. There are several names by which this condition is referred. These include “hereditary tremor,” “benign essential tremor,” and “familial tremor.” In the medical community, the term “essential” means that the symptom identified does not have a known underlying cause. The term “tremor” is used to describe a rhythmic, involuntary shaking of a body part. While the hands are commonly the most impacted, the head, the legs, as well as the trunk of the body may be impacted, too. Additionally, a tremor may affect the voice.

Action Tremor

If you have recently been diagnosed with essential tremor, it is imperative that you learn as much as you possibly can about the condition. The tremor that you suffer from is considered to be an action tremor; that is, it most commonly occurs or is aggravated by performing certain types of activities. These may include eating a meal, consuming a drink, brushing your teeth, writing, and others. The immense shaking that occurs may make simple tasks extremely difficult. As a result, you may experience disability. In some instances, the action tremor may be mild. In other cases, it may be severe. The severity of the tremor seems to correspond direction to the position of the impacted body part, the level of fatigue that is experienced, and if experiencing any degree of stress. In time, the tremor may worsen or may spread to other regions of the body.

Unknown Origin

The underlying cause associated with essential tremor is currently unknown; however, there are many theories. The first is that there is an issue with the functionality of the cerebellum. The second is that there is a problem with the chemical of the brain, referred to as “GABA.” The third is that the condition is genetic; however, to date, no specific gene has been identified as the carrier of the condition. Many medical professionals feel as if essential tremor may be a direct result of environmental-based factors. Unfortunately, these factors have yet to be identified. Therefore, essential tremor currently has an unknown origin. While most common in older adults, children, teenagers, and young adults have been diagnosed with the condition. 

What is the treatment for Essential Tremor?

To date, there is no cure for essential tremor; however, there are medications available that will help lessen the severity of the tremor experienced with the condition. These include propranolol, primidone, clonazepam, diazepam, lorazepam, alprazolam, gabapentin, topiramate, and mirtazapine. The medication types are Beta-blockers, antiseizure medications, or a combination of the two types. In addition to this, many patients have undergone injections of botulinum toxin. This is placed directly into the muscles and is designed to weaken them, which reduces the tremor caused by that muscle. Many individuals have successfully undergone surgical procedures, such as a thalamotomy or deep brain stimulation to overcome essential tremor. Additionally, many sufferers have found that engaging in physical therapy and using essential oils aids in overcoming the obstacles posed by the condition. 

Coping Strategies

In addition to medication, physical therapy, and surgical options for essential tremor, there are many ways that you may cope with this newly-diagnosed condition. The following outlines these strategies:

  1. First, you should make every effort to avoid caffeine in foods and beverages. Research shows that this ingredient may worsen the tremor.
  2. Tremors that occur in the head may become exceptionally troublesome. To cope, turn the head towards one side or another. This will allow you a higher level of control over the shaking.
  3. When using your hands, place your elbows to where they are very close to the trunk of your body.
  4. Purchase bowls, mugs, and cups that are weighted that you may use for beverages and soups.
  5. When purchasing plates, opt for those identified as “slant scoop,” “inner lip,” “scooper,” and/or “divided” as these will allow you to easily consume food without all of the mess.
  6. There are specially-designed eating utensils that you may purchase that will allow you to easily eat with essential tremor. These include pieces with areas for the fingers, weighted utensils, those with specially-designed handles, and utensil hand clips.
  7. If you often make notes to yourself, opt for a voice recorder with a playback function or utilize one of the many voice recording apps available on smart devices, such as your phone.
  8. If you use a computer, you may obtain voice recognition software to utilize the device.
  9. If your hands are negatively impacted by essential tremor, you may wear weights on the wrists in order to better control your movements.
  10. If your essential tremor affects your mobility, you may modify certain features of your home to accommodate the challenges that you experience. For example, you may install grab bars in your bathroom, integrate a stair lift into a multi-story home, or use a seat lift chair to get up easily.

Conclusion

While it is true that essential tremor may result in disability, there are many steps that may be taken to live more comfortably with the condition. First, you should learn as much as you can about the illness and the treatments that are currently available to lessen the symptoms. Next, you should consider employing a physical therapist that will aid in optimizing your mobility and the strength of the impacted muscles. Finally, you should follow the coping strategies outlined in this guide and consider any necessary home modifications. Work closely with your doctor to determine the best course of action for your individual needs and you are sure to find solutions to the problems that you will face with this medical condition.

Angela Shiflett
Angela Shiflett

Angela has worked as a professional content creator for just over fourteen years. Her topics are typically created as a result of her life experiences. She strives to deliver content that is helpful, intriguing, and entertaining. 

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