Provider Spotlight: Dr. Elias

The Essential Tremor Education Center has partnered with several pioneering medical facilities and their specialists to help others learn more about essential tremor. Dr. Jeffrey Elias from the University of Virginia Medical Center is a key contributor in new essential tremor treatment.

In 2009, Dr. Neal Kassell introduced Dr. Elias to early focused ultrasound studies taking place in Switzerland. The University of Virginia Medical Center gained access to this technology and conducted its own clinical trials to test the effectiveness. Dr. Elias led this international clinical trial of 76 patients to prove this could be a safe and effective way to offer symptomatic relief. This treatment, often referred to as Neuravive, uses MRI to target the area of the brain thought to be causing the tremor. Then, it uses short bursts of ultrasound waves to lesion the area of the brain, instantly offering symptomatic relief for many patients without using invasive surgery or ionizing radiation.

Of course, patients may have some concerns about Neuravive. The treatment is still too new to see how it holds up over time. “Fortunately, Neuravive can be very effective,” Dr. Elias said. “But it is certainly an early-stage technology that has a wide range of outcomes.” Still, he sees the treatment potentially being useful for a wider range of conditions: “Obviously, patients with Parkinson’s disease are interested because of the early results treating tremor. I am hopeful that we will see this technology applied to conditions like mood disorders, depression, and pain problems.”

In addition to his dedication to the field of neurosurgery, Dr. Elias enjoys being a father, spending time with his kids in order to pass down his passion for outdoor activities, and sports. However, as a neurosurgeon, his attention is turned toward patients.

Day after day, Dr. Elias shows his dedication to helping patients cope with essential tremor. He explains, “The most rewarding part of my job is to really get to be with patients as they proceed on a journey to try to treat their diseases and symptoms.” The Essential Tremor Education Center team is excited to join forces with our alliance members, such as the University of Virginia, to continue the work of helping patients with their tremors. If you’d like to speak to an educator to see if Neuravive, or another essential tremor treatment, may be right for you, please reach out to us today by calling, 844-668-7366 or 844-NO-TREMOR.

Identifying Signs of Essential Tremor in Your Loved One

Have you noticed a tremor in a loved one? The tremor may be in their hands, making it difficult or nearly impossible to write or drink water. Or you may notice that their head or voice is shaking uncontrollably. Many individuals first assume this shaking is due to Parkinson’s. However, when you notice a hand tremor, essential tremor may be the cause. Here’s how to tell if your loved one may have this common ailment.

The parts of the body affected by essential tremor

This type of tremor most commonly affects an individual’s hands or forearms—and it is most noticeable when they’re trying to use their hands to perform their day-to-day tasks requiring fine motor movement. Essential tremor isn’t always found in the hands. While less common, it can also affect a person’s head or voice—or, in very rare cases, the legs and feet.

Essential tremor primary symptoms

Unlike Parkinson’s, where a person’s hand tremors are most noticeable at rest, essential tremor is often most severe when someone is trying to use their hands. Your loved one may have tremors in both hands with differing severity, or they may only be experiencing tremors in one hand. Tremors can vary in severity. They can be minor enough to not impact your loved one’s life, or they can be severe enough for your loved one to need assistance with basic tasks. Meanwhile, head tremors are most often characterized by an uncontrollable shaking of the head, either up-and-down or side-to-side. The face may twitch, or the voice may be shaky.

The cause of essential tremor

If your loved one has essential tremor, a natural first question is: what is causing this tremor? Unfortunately, scientists haven’t quite figured that one out yet. While research is ongoing as to the exact cause, scientists believe the tremor is triggered by abnormal brain activity—and treatments targeting the thalamus, in particular, have offered valuable symptomatic relief to many with essential tremor.

Finding relief for your loved one

If you’re noticing your loved one has a severe tremor while using their hands, consult with a physician for a diagnosis, as it may be essential tremor. While the exact cause is unknown, there are many treatments available that help many patients regain control over their hands. These treatments can range from medication to invasive or noninvasive surgery. If you have more questions about hand tremors in a loved one, reach out to our educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center. They’re here to offer support and answer any questions you and your loved one may have. You can talk to an educator by calling 1-800-NO-TREMOR today.

Patient Spotlight: Raegan Earney

The Essential Tremor Education Center would like to highlight our educator Raegan for the work he has done to support those who are looking for essential tremor treatment. We believe education and support are the first steps to helping others take their health into their own hands. Our educators do their best to assist those who are currently struggling with these frustrating tremors.

Raegan Earney was drawn to essential tremor education because he enjoys doing what he can to help others. He says that, for those with essential tremor, “It hits their self-esteem. Because it’s not life-threatening, it’s not seen as really bad.” Many people are even unaware essential tremor exists—despite it being the most common movement tremor.

While Raegan does what he can to support others, he notes that it can be a struggle when he can’t give them what they need: “You can hear the desperation in their voice, and it’s frustrating when you don’t have any other options for them.” But he’s still glad he can be a source of comfort for many. He finds it most comforting “when you get the call back and you can hear their confidence level go up.” He adds, “Some people have had it since they were a teenager. It’s awesome to see them with a new, positive aspect of life.”

He’s also helped educate others about Neuravive, a noninvasive treatment option that minimizes the tremor without surgery or radiation. He says he’s received common questions, such as cost and safety of the treatment. But he’s also had some odd questions as well, such as “If you were a person that lived in the top .05 of nutrition and healthy-living, super disciplined, would that affect the treatment in any way?” Of course, while everyone responds to treatment differently, many have experienced a diminished tremor post-procedure.

Raegan is hopeful about the future of Neuravive. He says, “Technology is getting better every day. Soon they’ll be able to do both sides and help head tremors. Neuravive is looking very hopeful.” Currently, Neuravive is only able to treat the tremors in one hand—but for many, a steadier dominant hand can be life-changing.

To everyone who currently has essential tremor, Raegan sends words of support: “They’re not alone. There are a lot of people out there that deal with the same thing. There are treatment options for you.” If you’re currently considering essential tremor treatment and want to learn more about potential options, please call 844-NO-TREMOR today to speak with one of our educators.

Living and Working with Essential Tremor

Essential tremor symptoms have the greatest impact on the smallest things we take for granted—moments like drinking a glass of cool water without spilling or signing our name legibly on a form. But what can be really frustrating to those with essential tremor is the impact it can have in the workplace, where an individual can feel self-conscious about their tremor. Teachers, for example, especially feel the strain of prying eyes.

While any occupation can draw attention to a shaky hand, teaching young children adds another layer of difficulty. Children are curious, and are often still learning the rules of social etiquette. Once they’ve observed a tremor, they’re likely to ask about it—and possibly even tell their parents. Opening up to a room full of students, or even parents, can be uncomfortable and bring even more unwanted attention.

So, what can teachers do in this situation? First, know that you’re not alone in your experiences with essential tremor. Although not as well known, this is the most common movement tremor—even more so than Parkinson’s. An open discussion about essential tremor, although initially uncomfortable, may normalize the image of your hands shaking—and put the topic to rest for everyone.

And if you don’t want your tremor to be a point of discussion? That’s okay, too. Remember to breathe and help find ways to manage stress, as this can help to manage the tremors. However, if you find that your tremor is significantly impacting your job, it may be worth seeking treatment. Options can range from medication to invasive or noninvasive surgery. For many, any reduced symptoms can be a huge relief when it comes to maintaining autonomy and preventing curious minds from questioning the tremor.

If you have questions about managing your essential tremor symptoms or potential treatment options, please reach out to our educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center. Our team is here to offer support through your struggle with tremors and answer any questions you may have about treatment options. You can speak to our educators today by calling 1-800-NO-TREMOR.

Common Essential Tremor Treatment Options

Though essential tremor is not completely curable, there are ways to treat symptoms. Here are four treatment options available to those looking for relief.

 

Both invasive and noninvasive treatments are available to those suffering with essential tremor. There is no medication designed specifically for essential tremor, and those that are available to treat symptoms can come with nasty side effects. Deep brain stimulation involves implanting electrodes into the brain to regulate brain activity, while the Neuravive and Gamma Knife procedures are nonsurgical procedures. The Neuravive procedure is the only noninvasive procedure that offers immediate relief.

For more information about essential tremor treatment options, visit us at the Essential Tremor Education Center.

Jack Plant’s Essential Tremor Treatment Journey

Is it possible to go through almost your entire life without realizing what kind of hand tremors you have? Unfortunately—yes, it is. As essential tremor is not widely known, despite being the most common movement disorder, it can be decades before someone receives a diagnosis. The Essential Tremor Education Center would like to share the story of Jack Plant, who went through most of his life with a hand tremor before he heard of essential tremor.

Jack Plant first noticed his tremors as a child. He didn’t know what they were at the time—while he could hardly keep his letters between the guidelines when writing, he just assumed that he had poor handwriting. The tremor progressed as he grew older, although he was still steady enough to play sports. His tremor was prominent enough when he was excited, however, that he was given the nickname “shaker” from his friends.

He wasn’t the only one in his family with a tremor. His father and uncle also had a tremor, and everyone assumed it was Parkinson’s because they were never diagnosed with essential tremor. Jack never assumed that he himself had any sort of movement disorder until someone had mentioned essential tremor to him during work. Jack was in his 50s. This was his first time hearing about essential tremor.

After unsuccessfully trying medication for symptomatic relief, Jack searched the internet for essential tremor news. He stumbled across trials for MR-guided focused ultrasound, a noninvasive treatment that uses focused ultrasound to lesion the affected area of the brain. Unfortunately, Jack had missed his window to get into the trials—the studies were concluded, and the FDA already approved the procedure. He started looking for doctors who were performing the procedure. With some financial help from a friend, he was able to undergo treatment.

During an episode of Tremor Chats with Doug Couch, Jack shows his before and after results. Before treatment, he attempted to draw a spiral but couldn’t keep his hand steady. Three months after treatment, his hand barely shook. He notes, “It looks like two different people.”

If you want to hear more about Jack’s story, you can watch his appearance on Tremor Chats with Doug Couch here. If you’re currently seeking treatment for hand tremors, the Essential Tremor Education Center is here to offer support and answer any questions you have about essential tremor. You can talk to our educators today by calling 844-NO-TREMOR.

Essential Tremor Awareness Month: Get Involved!

Did you know March is Essential Tremor Awareness Month? Despite being the most common movement tremor, knowledge about essential tremor symptoms isn’t widespread. This month, why not help spread the word about essential tremor? Here are a few easy ways that you can get involved:

Put up printable posters for fundraising walks

Are you going to one of the essential tremor fundraising walks this month? The fun can start long before the walk itself. You can help recruit participants by printing flyers and posting them around your community. Your doctor’s office, community center’s billboard, or your local library can be highly visible places for people to learn about the walk.

Share essential tremor news through Facebook

If you’re an avid social media user, you can use platforms such as Facebook to share information with your family and friends. An educational blog can introduce others to essential tremor, and  teach them something new about it. You can also change your Facebook cover image to spread the word about Essential Tremor Awareness Month. The International Essential Tremor Foundation has already provided an awesome image here.

Donate to an essential tremor charity through Amazon Smile

If you’re an online shopper, you can make the most out of your money with Amazon Smile. Through this service, you can select your favorite essential tremor charity. Every time you make an eligible Amazon purchase, .5 percent of the purchase price will automatically be donated to your charity. You can learn more about how this works and sign up here.

Raise awareness for support groups

Have you joined an essential tremor support group yet? There are many across the country, and they can be a great way to connect with peers who understand life with essential tremor. You can also offer support to others with essential tremor by inviting them to the group. A little support can go a long way.

We hope you’ll have opportunities to get involved during Essential Tremor Awareness Month! It’s a time to connect with others you may not meet otherwise and spread knowledge about essential tremor symptoms. If you have questions about your own tremor symptoms, you can reach out to one of our educators. They are happy to offer support and answer any questions you may have about symptoms or treatment. You can talk to an educator today by calling 844-NO-TREMOR.

Alan Dambach Shares His Essential Tremor Treatment Story

As many with essential tremor know, a hand tremor can have a gigantic impact on day-to-day life. Tasks that many take for granted, such as sipping a glass of water, can be an embarrassing, stressful task for those with a tremor. The Essential Tremor Education Center would like to share the story of Allen, who experienced a debilitating tremor. But, after undergoing essential tremor treatment, he can handle daily tasks with ease.

Allen first developed his hand tremor in his late 50s. As with many individuals with a tremor, his was familial—his father had also struggled with tremors. Allen found that his tremors were growing worse over time, to the point that they were severely impacting the things he enjoyed doing. He says he feared buffets and salad bars, and he couldn’t write or fill out a deposit slip. He could no longer enjoy working on cars as a hobby—he bought a project car but then gave up because of the tremor.

His daughter, a speech pathologist, was familiar with essential tremor and suggested considering Deep Brain Stimulation, a surgical treatment that places electrodes into the brain to control the tremor. Allen didn’t want to undergo surgery, so he did his own research on essential tremor and learned about MR-guided focused ultrasound. This noninvasive treatment uses focused ultrasound to lesion the affected area of the brain. But, at the time, the procedure was only being performed in clinical trials. Allen did his best to get into a trial quick—he knew that, once it became FDA-approved, more and more people would be seeking treatment. He was accepted into a trial at the University of Maryland and underwent treatment.

How is his tremor now? On Tremor Chats with Doug Couch, Allen showed the effectiveness of his treatment by pouring water from one cup into another. As only one hand can be treated, it was an easy way to show the difference between his steady hand and his shaky. When he poured water from a cup in his treated hand into a cup in his untreated hand, the flow of water was steady with very minimal sign of a shake. When he poured water from the cup in his untreated hand, the shake was more obvious—the flow was not steady, almost missing the cup. The improvement made in his steady hand was clear.

If you want to hear more about Allen’s story, you can hear him talk more about his experiences with essential tremor treatment in this Tremor Chat episode. And if you want to learn more about what treatment options may be available for your tremors, you can speak to one of our educators today by calling 844-NO-TREMOR.

Participate in an Essential Tremor Fundraising Walk Near You

March is Essential Tremor Awareness Month! Despite being one of the most common hand tremors, many people are unaware that it exists — in part because its symptoms are often confused with other conditions such as Parkinson’s. But more awareness about this condition is growing, spurring efforts for new treatment options to offer much-needed symptomatic relief. Do you want to help others with awareness and fundraising efforts? You can offer a lot of valuable assistance by participating in an essential tremor fundraising walk. There are many scheduled across the country throughout March.

Find a walk near you

An awareness walk has a lot to offer. First, it’s a reminder that you are not alone. You have the chance to connect with others who understand what it’s like to live with essential tremor. Also, you have the chance to teach others about the tremor and raise money for more research and treatment efforts. Walks are scheduled in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Texas. You can learn more details and register for a walk here.

Schedule a walk in your community

If a walk isn’t scheduled near you, why not create one yourself? If you have the time and resources, scheduling a walk can help you teach your people in your community about essential tremor and connect with others who have tremors. You can set up a route, recruit participants, and make the most of your creativity to plan awesome fundraising activities. If you’re interested or want more ideas, the International Essential Tremor Foundation put together an easy-to-follow instructional guide.

We hope you’re able to participate in one of the essential tremor walks this year! If not, don’t worry — there are still other ways to make the most of Essential Tremor Awareness Month. If you would like to learn more about hand tremors and treatment options that may be available to you, reach out to one of our educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center. Our team is here to offer support and answer your questions about symptoms and treatment. You can talk to an educator by calling 844-NO-TREMOR today.

Educator Spotlight: Rachel Morrison

The Essential Tremor Education Center’s team of educators love to help others through their struggles with essential tremor symptoms. For many, treatment options are available that could offer much-needed symptomatic relief. Our educators are here to support those with essential tremor and help them learn about which treatment option they may desire to pursue. Today we’re highlighting our educator Rachel Morrison and her thoughts about essential tremor.

Rachel’s passion for educating people about tremors stems from her love of connecting with other human beings. From a young age, she enjoyed psychology and human connections, leading her to pursue a Master’s degree in counseling. She notes that helping others can be difficult—especially when it comes to navigating the financial burden of treatment: “Hearing how many people are suffering and knowing that they could get the help, but not having it accessible is the hardest part.” Questions about the cost of treatment are among the most frequent.

But the ability to give support to so many people is still fulfilling. She says she enjoys “having that journey from the first phone call to the post [treatment] phone call. You can hear how happy they are. They thank me for being there with them for the support, rather than having to do it themselves.” Although essential tremor is the most common movement tremor, few are aware of it, which can make many feel isolated—Rachel works hard to make sure people don’t feel so alone.

A treatment Rachel discusses often is Neuravive, a new treatment that uses FDA-approved focused ultrasound technology to treat the affected area of the brain without using surgery. She says, “It’s non-invasive. No incision, no anesthesia, people can get back to their lives within 24 hours. There’s not a lot of need for follow-up or continual care.” Many who have undergone the treatment have enjoyed a significantly reduced tremor afterward.

Rachel is optimistic about the future of essential tremor. To those currently seeking treatment for their essential tremor symptoms, she says “There is a new option, there are new treatments available. The technology and the medical field are advancing. They’re learning more about the brain and creating new ways to help these patients. Don’t give up hope. There’s a solution for everybody!” If you’d like to learn more about what solutions may be available, you can call 844-NO-TREMOR today to speak with one of our educators.