Treating Essential Tremor: Comparing the Benefits

Essential tremor is not only an inconvenience, but can be a significant hindrance to everyday life and activities. The good news is that although this common movement disorder is discouraging, it is treatable. There are several different essential tremor treatment options available that each have advantages and elements to consider depending on your unique situation and your desired outcomes. There are a few ways to analyze the separate types of treatment to determine which one is right for you.

Medications

Although there isn’t a medication designed to specifically treat essential tremor, there are several on the market that are intended to reduce symptoms. These medications are often anti-seizure medications or beta blockers.

Pros:

  • Medicines are easy to take orally and are readily available with a prescription.
  • Beta blockers are FDA approved to treat tremors.
  • Medications don’t require surgery.

Cons:

  • Strong side effects are possible.
  • Over time, people may develop a tolerance to beta blockers, making them completely ineffective.
  • Finding the best medication and dosage to alleviate symptoms may take time.

Deep Brain Stimulation

This method works by implanting electrodes in your brain within designated areas to regulate and control abnormal brain activity or the nerve signals that cause tremors.

Pros:

  • Doesn’t do any damage to existing tissue.
  • The DBS device can be removed or adjusted.

Cons

  • Requires surgery and recovery time.
  • Continued device adjustment and monitoring may be necessary.
  • There are potential complications after the procedure, ranging from headache to brain bleeding.

Gamma Knife

This procedure works by focusing many beams of radiation on one point within the body to treat essential tremor. This method targets the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM), where overactive cells can cause tremors.

Pros:

  • The radiation doesn’t damage any untargeted tissues.
  • It is non-invasive and doesn’t require general anesthesia.
  • Can be performed as an outpatient procedure.
  • There is very little risk of complications compared to other surgeries.

Cons:

  • It takes 3-6 months for patients to notice any tremor relief.
  • Common radiation risks apply, and because the treatment involves lesioning a part of the brain, any adverse results experienced are non-reversible or adjustable.

Neuravive

This is a procedure designed to treat patients with essential tremor who have not responded to medications. Neuravive utilizes focused ultrasound beams to eliminate the cells inside of the brain associated with essential tremor. The ultrasound beams are focused on one point within the brain and are pulsed for about 15 seconds at a time. This treatment also targets the ventral intermedia nucleus (VIM), where overactive cells can cause tremors.

Pros:

  • Results are typically experienced immediately.
  • Non-surgical and requires little to no downtime.
  • Does not use any form of radiation.
  • Very low complication rates and is safe.
  • Typically performed as an outpatient procedure.

Cons:

  • Involves lesioning a part of the brain, so results experienced are non-reversible or adjustable.
  • Long-term studies are not yet available due to recent FDA approval.

As you can see, there are a variety of treatment options for essential tremor that are available. Use this information along with the guidance of your physician to make an informed decision about which option may be right for you. Each of these treatments aim to improve your function and quality of life. The Essential Tremor Education Center advises you to weigh your essential tremor treatment options and consider each method carefully with a physician. Contact our educators through live chat to learn more about essential tremor and treatment options.