Essential tremor is one of the most common movement disorders, occurring about 10 times more frequently than Parkinson's disease. The disease can have a broad impact, causing difficulties in writing, eating, drinking, dressing and speaking – all of which can lead to embarrassment and concern that may cause depression or anxiety.
The University of Kansas Health System offers premier resources to help people with essential tremor manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Our comprehensive care addresses physical and emotional well-being.
What is essential tremor?
Essential tremor is a movement disorder in which the hands, head, trunk, voice or legs shake rhythmically and uncontrollably. It is often confused with Parkinson's disease or dystonia, which have similar signs but different causes. An accurate diagnosis is important to determine effective treatment.
Essential tremor symptoms and risks
Essential tremor is inherited 45-90% of the time.
In this condition, tremors occur when muscles are active, becoming evident during eating, drinking, speaking or writing, for example. As the ability to perform daily tasks decreases, disability and depression can become significant issues.
Essential tremor diagnosis and screening
No single test can diagnose essential tremor. Instead, a combination of tests may be used to rule out other causes of your symptoms and provide an accurate diagnosis.
In addition to conducting a physical exam and reviewing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor may recommend:
- Neurological tests
- Performance tests
Essential tremor treatment
Your care team will determine the best approach for essential tremor treatment based on your symptoms and condition. Treatment options for essential tremor include:
Deep brain stimulation provides electrical stimulation to a specific part of the brain and can provide long-lasting symptom control. This treatment uses an implantable device to block or alter brain signals that cause your symptoms.
Focused ultrasound is a noninvasive treatment for essential tremor that works by focusing multiple beams of ultrasound energy on targets deep in the brain without hurting nearby tissues.
Certain medications – such as beta blockers, antiseizure medications or tranquilizers – can be used to calm trembling caused by essential tremor. Your doctor will explain which medications are available and what is best for you.
Peripheral nerve stimulation uses a device to target the source of your tremor and relieve symptoms. PNS devices include tiny implants as well as newer, noninvasive options.
Leading research and clinical trials
As part of one of the nation's premier academic medical centers, our care providers are committed to research and scientific discovery through the University of Kansas Medical Center. We can often include our patients in potentially lifesaving clinical trials and treatment options not available anywhere else.