Essential Tremor: Cause, Symptom, Diagnosis and Treatment

Essential tremor is a neurological condition that causes involuntary shaking of your various body parts, most commonly your hands. It is now known that essential tremor is caused by genetic mutations that run in families. However, the exact cause for those without a genetic mutation remains unknown.

Essential tremor most commonly presents as hand trembling when you use your hands to do simple tasks, such as picking up things or tying your shoelaces. Currently there is no cure for this condition, but treatment could improve your symptoms.


In some people, this condition is caused by genetic mutations. Frequently there are multiple cases of essential tremor or other movement disorders running in the same family. Nevertheless, for most patients with essential tremor, the exact cause cannot be identified despite extensive efforts.


Essential tremor most commonly affects the middle-aged and the elderly. Both men and women are affected. It usually begins gradually and affects your hands at first.

As time goes by, the symptoms worsen and your other body parts, such as head, tongue, chin and larynx could also be affected. Moreover, trembling is more severe and apparent when your move your hands. Stress or drinking alcohol could aggravate the symptoms. When your other body parts are affected, you may also have corresponding symptoms. For instance, you could have head nodding or shaking when your head is affected.


There is no single test that can definitively diagnose essential tremor. Doctors diagnose this condition mainly based upon clinical symptoms. The most important condition to exclude, when diagnosing essential tremor, is Parkinson’s disease, which is also an extremely common neurological disorder characterized by involuntary shaking of hands.

There are several points that can be relied upon to distinguish essential tremor from Parkinson’s disease.

First, essential tremor occurs when you use your hands, and you generally have no tremor while your hand is at rest. By contrast, with Parkinson’s disease, your hand will tremble when at rest and the shaking reduces when you use your hands.

Another key difference is that with Parkinson’s disease, you also have other problems in addition to hand trembling. For instance, symptoms of slow movement and stooped posture are common in Parkinson’s disease but uncommon with essential tremor.


Currently there is no cure for essential tremor. However, treatment could improve your symptoms. You generally do not need any treatment if your symptoms are mild. Currently available treatments include:

Medications: medications like beta-blockers (propranolol), epilepsy drugs (primidone) or tranquilizers (Klonopin) have been used to treat essential tremor with various efficacy.

Surgery: If your essential tremor is disabling and significantly impairs your life, surgery with a deep brain stimulation may be recommended. It uses a thin rod that is placed into your brain to control your brain part that is involved by essential tremor. The other end of the device is embedded under your skin, which you can control.

Lifestyle changes: You are advised to refrain from drinking coffee and alcohol, which are common triggers for essential tremor. Moreover, you should also learn to relax in order to prevent essential tremor.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.