What is essential tremor?
Essential tremor is a disorder that affects the nerves and causes involuntary shaking in different parts of the body specially hands, wrists, arm and head. Other parts of the body can be affected as well such as: Face, tongue, neck, torso. In this type of tremor, the lower part of the body is rarely affected.
What causes essential tremors?
What causes the tremors in people with this condition is still not well understood, but it is believed that is the effect of an abnormal electrical brain activity in the thalamus, which is responsible for coordinating and controlling muscle activity.
In around 50% of the cases of essential tremor there is first degree relative that also has the condition, suggesting that genetics can be responsible for inheriting this condition. A person who has a parent with essential tremors is five times more likely to develop a tremor than the general population. For some other people the tremor appears spontaneously with unknown reasons, without previous family history of the disorder.
Essential tremors symptoms
Essential tremors are very variable from person to person, depending on their age, sex, progression of the disorder age of onset, etc. The most characteristic symptom of ET is tremors, an involuntary shaking of the hands and upper part of the body. The shaking is especially noticeable when trying to perform and activity which requires fine motor skills.
Usually both hands or arms are affected, with one side being more prominent than the other. Tremors vary greatly in amplitude and frequency; some can be easily noticeable while others are mild and barely perceptible.
Are essential tremors progressive?
Yes, they usually begin very mild and become more noticeable and stronger as the individual ages. The average rate of progression of a hand tremor ranges between 1.5 to 5% a year.
Are essential tremors life threatening?
Essential tremors are not life threatening, considering the only real symptom is shaking. It can prevent the person from taking care of him or herself, since the shaking can become so severe that normal day to day tasks (as eating, drinking, getting dressed) are a challenge. For the most part, people are able to live normal lives with the tremor, accommodating for the specific tasks they have a challenge with.
What worsens essential tremors?
Some factor can make essential tremors worse during a period of time, such as:
- Emotional stress
- Hunger/Low blood sugar
Are essential tremors related to Parkinson’s?
No, they are two different condition, even though they both involve involuntary shaking. Here are the main differences:
Type of tremors: ET tremors are mostly kinetic, meaning that they become noticeable when the person is trying to perform an activity that uses their hands. PD tremors are noticeable when the person is in resting condition, and become less prominent when they use their hands.
Other conditions: ET doesn’t cause other health complications, but Parkinson’s disease can cause other complications such as slowed movement in the whole body, change in posture, weakened facial and throat muscles, freezing gait, trouble sleeping, constipation and excessive sweating.
Parts affected: Essential tremors often affect the arms, head and voice. Parkinson’s usually starts in the hands but can also affect the lower part of the body.
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