What's Shaking

Why Don’t More People Know About Essential Tremor?

Essential tremor is a neurological disease that causes tremors or shaking in different parts of the body, most commonly in a person’s hands and usually when an individual attempts to make voluntary movements like tying a shoelace or pouring a drink. It affects 10 million people living in the United States and an estimated 75 million worldwide, however, many people have never heard of essential tremor.

With such a widespread reach, it begs the question — why don’t more people know about this condition?

Part of the reason may stem from its frequent mischaracterization as Parkinson’s Disease, another neurological condition that results in rhythmic shaking of the hands and other parts of the body. A doctor will mostly likely need to rule out other conditions that could potentially be causing a patient’s tremors, but ET is essentially diagnosed based on patient history, evaluation of characteristic symptoms, and a thorough medical examination. A proper diagnosis of essential tremor reveals key differences from Parkinson’s — Parkinson’s patients for example experience degenerative changes deep within the brain as well as the occasional onset of secondary symptoms, which are rare in ET patients. Additionally, ET patients often experience increased or more severe trembling while their hands are active (eating, drinking, etc.) rather than at rest, while Parkinson’s patients have visible tremors even when their hands are by their sides or non-active.

Another contributing factor to the largely unacknowledged nature of essential tremor is its obscurity when it comes to a cause, the onset of the condition, and the severity of symptoms. The cause of essential tremor is relatively unknown, although there seems to be a genetic component to the disease as 50% of cases appear to be the result of a genetic mutation that is passed on from parent to child. While the majority of ET patients do not experience the onset of symptoms until the age of 40 or older, essential tremor can occur at any age — even in infants. Additionally, the severity of symptoms vary from individual to individual and progress just as variably.

There is no cure for essential tremor, but there are treatments and lifestyle adaptations that can be employed. Options include:

  • Medication, such as beta blockers that halt the stimulating action of neurotransmitters that cause trembling
  • Botox injections in the hands to ease trembling
  • Surgical procedures (reserved for those with severe tremors) that include inserting brain stimulation devices or noninvasive surgery that uses ultrasound to generate heat waves in the brain
  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine, the latter of which is a stimulant that can aggravate tremors
  • Moderating stress and anxiety, which can also increase tremors

While essential tremor was first identified in 1817, there is still much to be known about the condition when you think about the fact that more than 200 years have passed since its discovery. Additionally, the lack of awareness about the disease both in the United States and worldwide, compounds the urgent need for more research about the disease’s causes and a potential cure.

We’re committed to providing the essential tremor community with access to products they can get today for a better tomorrow, but we’re also looking further into the future. A portion of the proceeds of our sales go towards funding programs that help the ET community, as well as cure-based research. More awareness means more action, which hopefully will mean more answers and an eventual cure.