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.