For many, essential tremor starts small — enough for most to manage the symptoms, either through minor lifestyle changes or through medication. But over time, those symptoms can progress enough to impact someone’s ability to do the things they enjoy. Lee Bures, a patient at the University of Virginia Medical Center, sought out essential tremor treatment after his tremors progressed to the point where he could no longer do basic tasks such as sign his name.
Bures, a handyman and car enthusiast, first noticed his developing tremor around 25 years ago while trying to pick up a cup of coffee. He was diagnosed with essential tremor roughly a decade later. Medications were unsuccessful in getting his tremor under control, and he didn’t want to pursue deep brain stimulation, an invasive surgery that involved implanting electrodes into the brain.
His progressing tremors continued to affect his day-to-day life. As a self-employed businessman in the automobile industry, he was unable to legibly write a check or sign his name. Small work or chores were also complicated — he couldn’t hold a screwdriver steady with a shaking hand.
Bures wanted relief from his symptoms, and the treatment he wanted to pursue was MR-guided focused ultrasound. This noninvasive surgery that uses focused ultrasound to lesion the affected area of the brain was not yet FDA approved. He was unable to get into the trials — but, once it was officially offered at the University of Virginia, he lined up for treatment.
When Bures sat down for treatment, he couldn’t draw a steady spiral — it more closely resembled a picture of a flower due to his shaking hands. But afterward, he was able to draw a solid spiral. What did he do with his newly steady hand? He crafted a handwritten thank-you note to his neurologist, Dr. Elias — the first time he could legibly write anything by hand in a decade. Bures considered his results to be unbelievable, “Dr. Elias told me I could expect a 70 to 80 percent improvement,” Bures said. “I believe I have a 90 to 100 percent improvement in that hand.”
Bures isn’t the only one who has seen needed symptomatic relief through essential tremor treatment. If you’re struggling with essential tremor and want to know if focused ultrasound or another treatment may be available to you, please reach out to the Essential Tremor Education Center. You can speak to one of our educators by calling 844-NO-TREMOR today.