- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Understanding What a Tremor Is.
Exactly What Is A Tremor?
Imagine you are reaching for a cup of coffee and as you pick it up your arm starts to twitch and your hand starts to shake. That is one example of a tremor. Another tremor could be you are resting in bed and suddenly without warning your leg starts to twitch and moves on its own. Reaching for a book on your coffee table and upon reaching it your hand trembles and you can't seem to keep a hold of your book as it slips from your hand is another form of tremor. The three tremors are called:
- Rest Tremor-occurs when your body is at rest
- Intention Tremor-occurs at the end of voluntary movement or when aiming for a target
- Postural Tremor-occurs when your body is holding a limb away from the body against gravity such as holding something in your hand at arms length
If you think you are experiencing tremors don't be alarmed. Tremors are a common symptom and many people are not even aware that they are having tremors and many never seek medical care. To help your doctor evaluate your tremor symptoms try and keep a log of when they occur, what you were doing when they do happen and what part of your body is affected.
What Causes Tremors?
What causes tremors is a very hard question to answer as there are many things that can cause tremors. A tremor can be a sign that you have issues with nerves, spinal cord or something may be affecting your brain. Tremors can be part of a brain disease which can affect your control of movement. Parkinson's disease is a prime example of how tremors can affect your body. It can cause stiffness, trouble walking, riding a bike, standing or simply even feeding yourself. Tremors can also be symptoms of hormonal abnormalities, thyroid issues, alcohol and alcohol withdrawal or certain prescriptions and nonprescription drugs.
Tremors can occur though and may be the only symptom you have. This is called an essential tremor. Over ten million Americans are affected by essential tremors alone according to the American Academy of Neurology. Did you know that it is eight times more likely to have essential tremors than Parkinson's disease? An essential tremor can start at . any age but is most commonly found around age forty. It is also considered to be possibly a common hereditary condition. The worst issue with essential tremors is that they typically get worse as you age. They can be disabling and affect your gross and fine movements.
Make an appointment to visit a neurologist.
Tremor Diagnosis And Treatment Options.
You need to see an expert called a neurologist who will then base the findings on observation and description of your tremors. This is where that log of symptoms of tremors would come in handy to give to your doctor. The neurologist will monitor your symptoms and look for other movement problems and may order additional testing such as blood tests or brain scans. Treatment will depend on your symptoms to give the accurate diagnosis.
First off there is no cure for tremors. That doesn't mean that tremors are not treatable and some tremors are so mild no treatment is necessary. Treatment may be necessary if the symptoms are bothersome or cause issues with normal functions. Depending on what kind of tremor you suffer from and if there is an underlying disease will affect the type of treatment needed to treat the condition.
The first step in treating tremors is to determine if there is an underlying disease. Many times treating the disease is the best treatment instead of the just treating the tremor. In some cases of tremor, a prescription drug is tried. Not all prescription drugs will work the same for every person who has tremors. It can be a bit of a challenge to find the right prescription so you may go through a bit of trial and error.
Unfortunately for some people who suffer from tremors that may not respond well to prescription drugs the next treatment option is brain surgery. The two surgery procedures are thalamotomy and deep brain stimulation. Thalamotomy is a cut made into the small part of the thalamus that is deep in the brain that helps control movement. This surgery is meant to stop the abnormal brain activity that is causing the tremors. Deep brain stimulation uses tiny electrodes surgically implanted in the brain. The electrodes are implanted under the skin in the upper chest. Electrical stimuli would then be delivered to the implanted device to the thalamus or other brain structures to treat the tremors.
Thalamotomy is normally done on one side of the brain so it affects the tremors on the opposite side of the body.. Deep brain stimulation can be performed on both sides of the brain. It should be noted that brain surgery can have serious side effects and should be discussed with not only a neurologist but also with a neurosurgeon before considering if it is an option you are willing to risk.
Living With tremors
First off all tremors should be evaluated by a physician to make sure there is no underlying disorder. Essential tremors are not life-threatening. Granted having tremors can be embarrassing, disabling and frustrating but you can try to lessen them by avoiding triggers such as
- low blood sugar
- other stimulants
Support groups can also be a great source of comfort and help just sharing your experiences with others who also have similar issues. Here is a list of resources of organizations to contact:
- American Academy of Neurology, www.neurologynow.com
- Neurology Now Magazine, (800) 879-1960
- International Essential Tremor Foundation, www.essentialtremor.org, (888) 387-3667
- Tremor Action Network, www.tremoraction.org, (510) 681-6565
- We Move, www.wemove.org, (347) 843-6132