What is Essential Tremor?

Essential tremor is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary rhythmic shaking in the body, as defined by the Mayo Clinic. It can affect any part of the body, but the trembling most often occurs in a person’s hands, especially when performing everyday tasks like eating, drinking, dressing, and bathing.

An estimated 10 million Americans and 75 million individuals worldwide suffer from essential tremor.

Though it is not dangerous or life threatening, symptoms can worsen over time and become cumbersome and frustrating for patients who develop it. ET is often confused with Parkinson’s Disease, another progressive neurological disease that affects movement. However, ET is eight times more common than Parkinson’s and often goes undiagnosed. The exact origin or cause for ET is unknown, though there is a genetic component to it as it has been referred to as a “familial” or “hereditary” tremor — half of ET patients have a genetic mutation governed by what is called an autosomal dominant disorder. This means that a defective gene from only one parent can pass on the disease. There is no cure for essential tremor at this time.

Essential tremor can occur at any age, but it is most commonly found and diagnosed in people ages 40 and older. Children, even as young as infants, have been diagnosed with essential tremor.

Symptoms of Essential Tremor

Symptoms may present themselves slowly or progressively depending on when the onset occurs and may include:

  • Hand tremors are the most common and typically begin gradually, also they can worsen with movement (often when performing everyday tasks)
  • The tremor is usually more prominent on one side, but can be in both
  • A tremor or shake in the neck/head that mimicks as “yes-yes” or “no-no” response
  • Tremors that may worsen or become triggered by things like fatigue, caffeine, stress, or temperature extremes

Common Difficulties Associated with Essential Tremor

Though ET is not life threatening, the associated tremors and shakes can get progressively worse over time and can make the following everyday tasks more challenging:

  • Eating
  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Putting on makeup
  • Writing
  • Holding objects steady

Ways Essential Tremor Differs From Parkinson’s Disease

Though both ET and Parkinson’s are neurological diseases that cause trembling, they differ in the following ways:

  • Tremor locations: Essential tremor usually only presents in trembling of the hands, whereas Parkinson’s Disease starts in the hands and then can progress to other areas of the body such as the chin, legs, and even voice.
  • Tremor occurrence: Patients with essential tremor typically experience the tremors when using their hands. Patients with Parkinson’s Disease have visible tremors even when their hands are at rest or by their sides.
  • Associated conditions: Essential tremor doesn’t cause other health issues, but Parkinson’s has been known to be correlated with slow movement, a shuffling gait, and stooped posture.

Essential tremor is a liveable condition. It may change the way you do things and it may require that you go about your daily life in a different way, but there are resources and products out there that can help. Please peruse our inventory of products that are specially curated to help those living with essential tremor have a better tomorrow.