Essential tremor is strikingly common, affecting as many as 10 million people just in America. Yet it can still take years to receive a proper diagnosis, and even longer to undergo essential tremor treatment. Joe Arnold, a retired airborne ranger, didn’t start experiencing severe tremors until his 50s — and now, 20 years later, he has finally found relief through focused ultrasound treatment.
During his discussion with Doug Couch on “Tremor Chats,” Arnold recalls his tremor starting even earlier than his 50s. A small hand twitch caused him to stop playing tennis in his 30s, then racquetball in his 40s, and finally golf in his 50s. His shakes became more severe and he found that basic tasks like writing and typing were becoming impossible. He wasn’t embarrassed by the tremors, although he joked, “When I’d put beer on my friends next to me, that’d get a little embarrassing.”
Arnold was diagnosed with essential tremor in 2001. The neurologist ran him through a series of tests for Parkinson’s before giving him an essential tremor diagnosis. He proceeded to try a series of medications for symptomatic relief, although only one had tolerable side-effects. By this time, he could no longer write and had to use both hands to handle tasks.
Five years ago, Arnold decided enough was enough — it was time to seek treatment beyond medication. He decided against deep brain stimulation because being a scuba diver, he couldn’t be deep underwater and tolerate the extra pressure on his brain. Instead, he researched other treatments and discovered trials for Neuravive in Israel. Intrigued, he waited for it to come to the States and signed up for treatment at the University of Maryland. A conversation with the staff convinced him it was the best course of action.
The Neuravive procedure uses MRI to target the part of the brain causing the tremor, and then uses focused ultrasound waves to lesion the affected area of the brain. Before Arnold started treatment, he was asked to draw a spiral — a task he could no longer complete. He was asked the retry the exercise at intervals during the procedure. Each time, his spiral grew steadier, until he could draw it perfectly.
Want to see the improvement Joe Arnold experienced during his essential tremor treatment? You can hear his full story on this episode of “Tremor Chats on Doug’s Couch.” If you’re considering treatment for your tremor, consider reaching out to our team of educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center. Our team is dedicated to answering your questions and offering support. You can speak to an educator today by calling 844-NO-TREMOR.