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What is Essential Tremor?

Essential tremor is a disorder affecting the nervous system. It is characterized by involuntary and rhythmic movements of hands and forearms.

Our brain has different parts, each part playing a crucial role in the normal functioning of our body. These parts are intricately connected with each other via nerve fibers called nerve tracts and with the rest of our body by nerves, which are nothing but a collection of these tracts. Each second, there are a number of signals travelling through these tracts, to and fro from the brain. The former, giving input to our brain and the latter being the output.

We can move a certain part of our body because of contraction of a particular group of muscles. This involves communication between the brain and muscle via nerves. The parts of brain involved in this circuit are mainly:

  • Motor center of the cerebrum
  • Cerebellum
  • Basal ganglia

Essential tremors are produced because of repeated firing of signals from certain cells present in basal ganglia and cerebellum.

How common is Essential Tremors?

More than 1 million cases per year in India suffer from Essential Tremors

What are the Symptoms of Essential Tremors?

Characteristics of essential tremors are:

  • This tremor is more visible while holding a posture, for eg: holding a cup of tea, etc.
  • Upper limbs are more commonly affected, especially the hands. It can also involve the face, tongue and lower limbs.
  • This tremor first affects one side, then gradually involves both sides.
  • In severe cases, it can affect day-to-day activities like eating and drinking.
  • It gets worsened by stressful situations.
  • Essential tremors run in families.

Essential tremor is frequently confused with Parkinson’s disease, but the two conditions differ in many ways:

  • Timing of tremors: Essential tremor of the hands usually occurs when you use your hands. Tremors from Parkinson’s disease are most prominent when your hands are at your sides or resting in your lap.
  • Associated conditions: Essential tremor doesn’t cause other health problems, but Parkinson’s disease is associated with stooped posture, slow movement and shuffling gait. However, people with essential tremor sometimes develop other neurological signs and symptoms, such as an unsteady gait (ataxia).
  • Parts of body affected: Essential tremor mainly involves your hands, head and voice. Parkinson’s disease tremors usually start in your hands, and can affect your legs, chin and other parts of your body.

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Who is at risk for Essential Tremors?

  • People who have a close family member suffering from this disorder.
  • Elderly population (above 70 years)

What are the causes of Essential Tremors?

The exact cause of essential tremors remains unknown. But 50% of cases have shown a positive family history. This disorder is thought to be caused by a genetic mutation.

What are the complications in Essential Tremors?

This is not a dangerous condition, but can worsen with time. You may find it difficult to write, hold objects, talk clearly.

How are Essential Tremors diagnosed?

To diagnose this condition, your doctor will:

  • Take a detailed medical and family history
  • Do a physical Examination of your nervous system
  • Run certain blood tests like: thyroid test, tests for metabolic problems
  • Rule out other diseases involving tremors like Parkinson’s disease

How are Essential Tremors treated?

Mild conditions do not require any treatment, but if your tremors are affecting your day-to-day activities, your doctor may give the following treatment:

  • Drugs like beta-blockers (propanolol), anti-seizure medications (primidone), tranquilizers for people whose tremors worsen with anxiety.
  • Physiotherapy (exercises to improve your muscle strength, control and coordination).
  • Surgery (in severe cases) like deep brain stimulation can be helpful

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What are the lifestyle changes required to deal with Essential Tremors?

  • Avoid caffeine as it can aggravate symptoms
  • Manage stress or it can make tremors worse
  • Have the suggested medicines on time
  • Wear clothes are shoes that are easier to put on
  • Buy larger utensils and try to use a straw for drinking

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How to take care of someone with Essential Tremors?

  • Be gentle and kind to them
  • Help them with eating and dressing up if needed
  • Remind them to take their medicines on time
  • Listen to them and allow them to vent out

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