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The Early Signs of Essential Tremor and Treatment Options

An elderly patient’s hand

Essential tremor, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking, can affect almost any part of the body but most commonly affects the hands (especially when performing simple tasks like drinking from a glass or tying a shoelace).

Understanding the early signs and various treatment options available is essential for managing the condition effectively and maintaining a high quality of life. This blog delves into the early indicators of essential tremor and explores the spectrum of treatments (from lifestyle adjustments to medical interventions). Keep reading.

Identifying Early Signs of Essential Tremor

The initial manifestation of essential tremor often involves a slight shaking or trembling in one or both hands. The tremor typically occurs when the hands are in use, termed an “action tremor,” contrasting with tremors that occur at rest. These tremors can also affect the head, voice, legs, and torso.

Some individuals may notice a “yes-yes” or “no-no” motion of the head. Notably, stress, fatigue, and extreme temperatures can exacerbate the tremors and make them more noticeable. Early detection is often challenging due to the gradual onset and mild initial symptoms. However, paying attention to these subtle changes is imperative.

Lifestyle Adjustments and Coping Strategies

Essential tremor management involves several lifestyle adjustments that can significantly alleviate symptoms. Reducing caffeine intake and avoiding other stimulants can help. Engaging in relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can also reduce tremor severity by minimizing stress (which often aggravates tremors).

Some individuals find that using heavier utensils and glasses stabilizes their hands and reduces the impact of the tremors on daily activities. Occupational therapy can be incredibly beneficial. It offers strategies and adaptive devices to manage tremors effectively.

Medication and Nonsurgical Treatment Options

The MRI Caring Suite at Houston Physicians’ Hospital where focused ultrasound is used to treat essential tremor

When lifestyle adjustments aren’t sufficient to control tremor symptoms, medication may be prescribed. Beta-blockers, traditionally used to treat high blood pressure, have been effective in reducing tremors for many individuals. Primidone, an anti-seizure medication, is another common prescription for managing essential tremor. Additionally, Botox injections have been used to treat hand and voice tremors by temporarily paralyzing the tremor-producing muscles. It’s important to discuss the potential side effects and benefits of these treatments with a healthcare provider.

Surgical and Advanced Therapies

For individuals with severe tremors that significantly impact their quality of life and do not respond to medication, surgical options may be considered. Deep brain stimulation is a procedure that involves implanting an electrode in the brain connected to a stimulator device in the chest (which sends electrical pulses to the brain to reduce tremors). Another promising treatment is focused ultrasound therapy. This noninvasive procedure, created by a company called Insightec, uses focused ultrasound waves to target and lesion the brain areas responsible for the tremors. Both treatments have been options for years, but focused ultrasound is proving to be the more effective method in significantly reducing tremors for many patients.

Emerging Research and Future Directions

Ongoing research into essential tremor is broadening our understanding of the condition and paving the way for new treatment options. Genetic studies are uncovering potential hereditary links. Innovative technologies in neuromodulation and pharmacotherapy hold promise for more effective management of tremors. Patient participation in clinical trials is essential for advancing these developments and offering hope for future breakthroughs in essential tremor treatment.

Visit Houston Physicians’ Hospital for Essential Tremor Treatment

Recognizing the early signs of essential tremor is essential for timely intervention. At Houston Physicians’ Hospital, we provide advanced diagnostic and treatment options, including MR-guided focused ultrasound from Insightec. Our neurosurgeons in Clear Lake TX, are at the forefront of utilizing innovative approaches for conditions that may be exacerbated by essential tremor complications. If you or someone you know suffers from essential tremor, visit our webpage to learn more and contact us to schedule an appointment.