Although there are many possible causes of tremor, essential tremor (ET) is the most common. ET is a neurological condition that causes shaking of the hands, head, and voice. It can also cause legs and trunk to shake, and some people have a feeling of internal tremor.
In the U.S. alone, an estimated 10 million people have ET. Men and women are equally affected, and it occurs in people of all races. Essential tremor is not confined to the elderly. Young children, teenagers, young adults, and middle-aged people also develop ET. In fact, newborns have been diagnosed with the condition!
Essential tremor is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, yet according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, eight times as many people have ET as have Parkinson’s.
There is evidence that essential tremor is genetic. Each child of a parent who has ET has a 50% chance of inheriting a gene that causes the condition. However, people with no family history of tremor also develop ET.
Few effective prescription medications are available for treating essential tremor. Unfortunately, it is estimated that less than 60% of people with ET are helped by these medications. Deep brain stimulation is a surgical treatment available for severe essential tremor.
Quality of life is a big issue for people with essential tremor. Daily activities such as eating, drinking, grooming and writing become difficult if not impossible. People who have ET become disabled at worst and feel frustrated or embarrassed at best.
For more information about essential tremor, visit www.essentialtremor.org.