Picture of two elderly hands.

What Causes Sudden Uncontrollable Shaking in the Elderly?

Sudden uncontrollable shaking in the elderly is a very distressing symptom that is often considered to be a sign of an underlying health issue that needs immediate medical attention.
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Picture of two elderly hands.

Sudden uncontrollable shaking in the elderly is a very distressing symptom that is often considered to be a sign of an underlying health issue that needs immediate medical attention. Examples of these issues include medication side effects, neurological conditions, and metabolic imbalances, in addition to some psychological factors. Preventing this sudden shaking in the elderly requires a comprehensive understanding of these potential triggers, therefore, in today's blog, we will explore the various causes of sudden shaking the in elderly to help you prevent and/or manage this condition.

What Triggers Sudden Shaking in the Elderly?

Sudden hand tremors in the elderly can be an alarming sign, stemming from a variety of causes, from benign conditions to more serious medical emergencies. Let's go through our comprehensive and detailed overview of the potential causes of 70-year-old hands shaking:

Neurological Conditions:

  • Parkinson's Disease: Parkinson's disease is a neurological condition that worsens over time and is marked by postural instability, stiffness, slowness of movement, and resting tremors. It is brought on by the death of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain's movement control region, the substantia nigra. Usually starting on one side of the body, the symptoms can first appear as a hand or finger tremor, which is sometimes compared to rolling pills. This explains the sudden 70-year-old hands shaking as Parkinson's is more common among this age group.

  • Essential Tremor: One prevalent neurological condition, particularly among the elderly, is essential tremor. This condition may account for the sudden hand tremors in elderly people since it causes repetitive shaking of the hands, head, voice, and other areas of the body. Although the cause of this condition is unknown, it might be related to alterations in certain brain regions and/or hereditary factors. While tremors can become worse with stress, weariness, or caffeine, they happen during intentional movements like eating or writing, unlike Parkinson's disease.

  • Stroke: A stroke is a medical emergency that can result from bleeding or obstruction in the blood supply to a specific area of the brain, killing brain cells. Sudden uncontrollable shaking in the elderly can occur if the stroke affects areas of the brain involved in motor control. Additional indications of a stroke could be a sudden weakening on one side of the body, trouble speaking, and lack of coordination.
  • Metabolic and Systemic Causes:

  • Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can have a quick impact on how the body and brain work. It frequently results from long fasts, heavy alcohol use, or diabetes therapy. A lack of glucose reaching the brain and muscles causes symptoms like palpitations, sweating, disorientation, unconsciousness, and of course, tremors.

  • Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland produces an excess of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormone overproduction raises the body's metabolic rate, which causes a variety of physiological and psychological effects. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include increased anxiety, heat sensitivity, muscle weakness, rapid or erratic heartbeat, fine tremors, and unexplained weight loss. It's crucial to remember that these symptoms might differ in intensity from one individual to another.

  • Electrolyte Imbalances: Important minerals including calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium are involved in electrolyte imbalances. Unbalances in these electrolytes can interfere with neuron and muscular function, which depends on them for proper contraction of muscles. Tremors, cramping in the muscles, weakness, and in extreme situations, seizures, are some of the symptoms that may manifest due to electrolyte imbalances.
  • Medications and Substance Withdrawal:

  • Medication Side Effects: Medications like antipsychotics, antidepressants, bronchodilators, and certain anti-seizure medications can cause sudden shaking in the elderly as a side effect. These medications may have an impact on neuromuscular and neurological systems, which may result in uncontrollable shaking. People using these drugs must understand any possible side effects and speak with their doctor if they have tremors or any other unsettling symptoms. Furthermore, in many circumstances, changing to a different medicine or modifying the dosage may help reduce the tremors while still successfully treating the underlying issue.

  • Substance Withdrawal: Withdrawal from substances such as alcohol or benzodiazepines can also cause hand tremors in the elderly. It is crucial to remember that sudden withdrawal from some substances might cause hyperactivity in the nervous system. Many symptoms, including tremors, increased anxiety, marked agitation, and, in extreme cases, seizures, can be caused by this hyperactivity. Therefore, in order to reduce risks and negative consequences, it's imperative to take caution and seek expert help when making changes to treatment regimens or substance usage. 
  • What Prevents Sudden Uncontrollable Shaking in the Elderly?

    A close-up on an elderly struggling to hold their cup still.

    Medical Management and Monitoring:

    Regular health examinations can assist in identifying and treating conditions including Parkinson's disease, thyroid issues, and electrolyte imbalances that may cause sudden shaking in the elderly. In order to stop these problems from getting worse, early detection and intervention are essential. Furthermore, complications that could result in sudden shaking can be avoided by managing chronic illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurological disorders effectively. This entails following treatment regimens, making lifestyle adjustments, and getting frequent checkups.

    Lifestyle Modifications:

    Maintaining general health can be assisted by a nutritious, well-balanced diet. It's also critical to maintain adequate hydration because electrolyte imbalances brought on by dehydration may result in tremors. Regular exercise can also enhance general well-being, muscle strength, and coordination. In addition to helping with stress management, exercise lowers the chance of developing chronic illnesses that could cause tremors.

    Stress Management and Mental Health Support:

    Reducing anxiety and stress-related tremors can be achieved by engaging in stress-reduction practices like yoga, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation. Moreover, managing stress, depression, and other mental health issues that may be linked to sudden shaking in the elderly is made easier with the availability of psychological care, such as counseling or therapy.

    Medical Interventions:

    Depending on the underlying disease, doctors may prescribe medications particularly meant to treat tremors, such as beta-blockers (like propranolol), anticonvulsants (like primidone), and other medicines. For severe cases, like essential tremor or Parkinson's disease, surgical procedures such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) may be considered.

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    Close-up on the hands of an elderly.


    In Conclusion:

    Elderly tremors can result from a variety of factors, and pinpointing their exact cause can be a bit tricky, even for a professional. So, make sure to speak with your doctor if you notice any tremors or other unpleasant symptoms to stay ahead of the problem, as the treatment journey might take a while, depending on the severity of your case.


    The most frequent neurological conditions that result in abrupt shaking in the elderly are essential tremor, Parkinson's disease, and stroke aftermath. Parkinson's disease is commonly characterized by a resting tremor and can also cause bradykinesia and stiffness. On the other hand, essential tremor can run in the family and is characterized by shaking that happens during voluntary movements. Moreover, if a stroke damages the brain regions in charge of motor control, it may also result in shaking.

    Yes, tremors or abrupt shaking can occur as a side effect of several drugs. Antipsychotics, antidepressants, bronchodilators, and certain anti-seizure drugs are a few examples. Managing this entails reviewing and modifying the drug regimen in consultation with a healthcare professional. While changing to a different drug or lowering the dosage can occasionally stop the tremors, it's crucial to get medical advice before stopping any prescribed medicine.

    Low blood sugar, also referred to as hypoglycemia, causes sudden shaking in the elderly because the brain and muscles do not receive enough glucose, which is their main energy source. This may result in symptoms such as tremors, sweating, palpitations, and confusion. To stabilize blood sugar levels, the first course of action is to consume a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as fruit juice, glucose tablets, or ordinary soda, followed by a longer-acting carbohydrate meal. To avoid hypoglycemia, people with diabetes must constantly check their blood glucose levels.

    Absolutely, sudden shaking can be brought on by psychological conditions like conversion disorder, anxiety, and panic attacks. Tension in the muscles and tremors might result from the body's "fight or flight" reaction to stress or fear. Learning stress-reduction strategies including mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation exercises as well as receiving psychological support—such as counseling or therapy—are common steps in addressing these problems. Medication to treat anxiety or other psychological disorders can also be recommended in specific circumstances.

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