Essential tremors refer to a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable shaking of the hands, arms, head and other parts of the body. The lower part of the body is rarely affected by this disorder. Also, both sides of the body may not be affected in the same way. This disorder does not usually need treatment unless it is severe enough to impede daily functioning and make the person dependant on others. However, patients suffering from this condition may often find it difficult to complete simple tasks like buttoning a shirt or writing.
Some of the symptoms of this disorder are:
Essential tremors also affect the psychological make-up of a person. Depression and anxiety are often associated with essential tremors. The frustration of not being able to control tremors may also make a person withdraw from friends and family. People suffering from essential tremors also have a higher than normal risk of suffering from conditions such as Parkinson’s.
The exact cause of this disorder is not yet known and hence it cannot be prevented. Genetic mutations have been credited with causing this condition is many cases but the gene responsible for it has not yet been identified. Thus, essential tremors can be passed down from parent to child. However, the severity of the tremors and the age at which symptoms first become visible may vary. While some people show signs of tremors in their early teen years, others develop tremors only in their late 40s.
These tremors can also be caused by abnormal electrical activity in the thalamus. The thalamus controls and coordinates muscle activity. Tremors caused by old age or those caused by excessive consumption of alcohol, emotional distress etc are not categorised as essential tremors. However, ageing may make essential tremors more frequent and pronounced.
Blood, urine and other lab tests do not help in diagnosing this condition. A diagnosis is usually made on the basis of an understanding of the family medical history, a physical examination and complete neurological exam. In order to rule out other triggers for the tremors, a doctor may ask for thyroid tests. At present this condition cannot be cured but medication may help reduce the symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life.