Essential tremor refers to a nerve disorder causing people to experience uncontrolled shakes in different parts of the body. This condition usually affects the chin, voice box (larynx), head, arms, and hands.
This medical condition itself is not life-threatening, as long as you take care of yourself and prevent injuries. In most cases, the symptoms associated with essential tremor cause difficulty completing activities of everyday life; For example, tying a shoelace, pouring a cup of coffee, dressing, writing notes, and more.
Essential tremor disorder affects about 7 million people in the US. Although there is no cure for essential tremors, it is treatable. So, if you suspect that you might be suffering from ET, visit the doctor to receive a proper diagnosis.
How to Diagnose Essential Tremor?
The diagnosis of essential tremor generally begins with a physical examination and review of the patient’s medical history and family history. There are not any invasive medical tests performed when diagnosing this condition. Prior to diagnosing a patient with Essential tremor, a doctor may suggest the non-invasive tests below:
The tremor itself is evaluated through performance tests. The doctor will ask you to perform several actions like drinking from a glass, drawing a spiral, writing, or holding your arms outstretched.
If the doctor is not certain whether the tremors you are experiencing are essential tremors or Parkinson’s tremors, a dopamine transporter scan might be conducted. This scan helps the doctor determine the difference between the two tremor types.
Besides the performance tests, laboratory tests will also help diagnose this condition. Your urine and blood can be tested for several indicators of Essential tremor,, such as drug side effects, metabolic problems, thyroid disease, and chemical imbalances.
A neurological examination can also be conducted to help determine the possible essential tremor causes. In this test, the doctor examines the functionality of the nervous system. Neurological tests include checking gait, posture, and coordination. moreover, the ability to feel specific sensations, muscle tone and strength, and tendon reflexes are all evaluated during a neurological test.
Common Symptoms of Essential Tremor
Each person with this condition may experience different symptoms from other individuals.
Most of the tremors associated with Essential Tremor in the jaw and other body parts present as small and rapid movements. You may experience these movements occasionally, frequently, or constantly. Sometimes, patients experience unilateral tremors (tremors only on one side of the body), and other patients experience unilateral tremors (tremors to both sides of the body).
In most cases, people with this condition experience tremors while doing specific tasks like tying a shoelace. These tremors are known as action tremors. Other individuals may experience tremors when they are not doing anything at all. These are called resting tremors.
Patients may experience a different degree of tremor severity depending on their case. Tremors can range from minor to severe. Tremors are considered minor if they do not affect the patient’s everyday life, and severe when they cause trouble to the patients when performing daily activities.
Below are some of the symptoms associated with Essential Tremor in different body parts:
- Noticeable shakiness in both arms or one arm when trying to complete tasks with hands.
- Tremors in the feet, legs, and core which cause issues with balance and affect the way someone walks (or gait).
- Tremors in the voice box or tongue which make the patient’s voice sound shaky when trying to speak.
- Different parts of the patient’s face like eyelids may appear to twitch.
- Tremors in the neck and head make the patient’s head shake in a side-to-side or up-and-down motion.
- Several factors temporarily worsen the patient’s tremors, such as smoking cigarettes, caffeinated drinks, very hot or cold temperatures, hunger, fatigue, and emotional stress.
The Causes of Essential Tremor
You may be wondering, wonder what causes Essential Tremors?
Some tremors are caused by different neurological conditions, which are a result of a stroke, overactive thyroid, or alcohol abuse. However, these tremors are not categorized as Essential tremors. The exact cause of this condition is still unknown.
Scientists have not yet found the exact environmental or genetic causes. Additionally, there are, no known cellular defects linked to this condition. On the other hand, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, essential tremors can be triggered due to changes in specific brain areas.
Preparation for Essential Tremor Appointment
Do you suspect you may have Essential tremors? If yes, you can consult your primary care provider or see a specialized doctor to receive a diagnosis.
When making an appointment, you can ask if you need to do anything in advance, like fasting before a specific test.
You may want to make a list of several things, including:
Symptoms: You can list down the symptoms you are experiencing. You may also include symptoms that you do not think are related to your tremors.
Key Personal Information: In this list, you can include your family medical history, recent life changes, and common causes of stress.
Medications, Supplements, and Vitamins: You should also list all of the supplements, vitamins, and medications you are taking, including their doses.
During the appointment, you can ask your doctor the following questions:
- What are the most common causes of the essential tremor symptoms?
- What are the other potential causes?
- Do I need to undergo any tests, and what are they?
- How does essential tremor often progress?
- Are there any restrictions I must follow?
- What are the recommended treatments?
- Are there natural remedies available?
- Do I need to consult a specialist?
- What are some resources where I can find helpful information?
- Are there available brochures and other printed materials?
Essential tremor is one of the medical conditions that can affect your everyday life. For this reason, it is important to consult a doctor as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and effective treatment. The symptoms may vary from person to person. Some may experience minor symptoms, while others experience severe symptoms. While you may suffer from this condition, there are several ways to make your everyday living comfortable.