Can’t keep your hands still as you try to put a key in a lock or when you put pen to paper? Do activities like pouring a cup of coffee or tying your shoelaces make you feel defeated and exhausted? It’s a disheartening truth that these are just some of the ways essential tremor impacts.
When a person has essential tremors, everyday tasks that others take for granted can seem like insurmountable hurdles. Fortunately, there are treatment options that are beneficial to a great extent in managing Essential Tremors.
Don’t let your health hold you back! Diagnosing essential tremors is the first step to beginning treatment. It involves reviewing the medical history, family history, and symptoms and conducting a physical examination.
Diagnosing involves ruling out other conditions that could be causing the symptoms. The following tests are performed to diagnose essential tremors:
Used to test the nervous system functioning, including checking:
- Tendon reflexes
- Muscle strength and tone
- Ability to feel certain sensations
- Posture and coordination
Blood and urine are tested for several factors, including:
- Thyroid disease
- Metabolic problems
- Drug side effects
- Levels of chemicals that may cause tremor
To evaluate the tremor itself, the doctor may ask the patient to:
- Drink from a glass
- Hold his/her arms outstretched
- Draw a spiral
If the doctor is still unsure if the tremor is an essential tremor or Parkinson’s disease, he or she might order a dopamine transporter scan. This scan helps the doctor to tell the difference between the two types of tremors.
Treating Essential Tremors
Some people may not require treatment if the symptoms are mild. But if the essential tremor is making work or performing daily activities difficult, then it is essential to discuss treatment options with the doctor.
- Beta blockers – Typically used to treat high blood pressure, which help relieve tremors in some people.
- Anti-seizure medications – May be effective in people who don’t respond to beta blockers.
- Tranquilizers – To treat people for whom tension or anxiety worsens tremors.
- OnabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) injections – Useful in treating some types of tremors, especially head and voice tremors.
Doctors will suggest physical or occupational therapy depending on the condition. Physical therapy includes designed exercises that improve muscle strength, control, and coordination. Occupational therapy helps in adapting to living with essential tremors. Therapists suggest adaptive devices to reduce the effect of tremors on daily activities, including:
- Heavier glasses and utensils
- Wrist weights
- Wider, heavier writing tools, such as wide-grip pens
Nerve stimulation devices
A wearable electronic peripheral nerve stimulation device (Cala Trio) is a newer treatment option for people with essential tremors. The device works by stimulating peripheral nerves and muscles to create a muscle response that reduces tremors. Studies show that the device can bring some improvement for tremors.
Surgery is an option if tremors are severely disabling and the person doesn’t respond to medications.
- Deep brain stimulation is the most common type of surgery for essential tremors wherein painless electrical pulses are transmitted to interrupt signals from the thalamus that may be causing your tremors.
- Focused ultrasound thalamotomy is a non-invasive surgery that involves using focused sound waves that travel through the skin and skull. The waves generate heat to stop a tremor.
Essential tremor is an involuntary movement of the upper extremities, and sometimes the head and jaws which don’t really exist when at rest, but occur when the person tries to do something and instantly starts shaking.
Most people with essential tremors are otherwise healthy. Treatment is the best solution to manage tremors, which otherwise can make the person lose control over life itself.