Essential tremor is a neurological disorder that can occur at any age but is most common in people age 40 and older.
It causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking that can affect almost any part of your body, especially arms, hands, head, voice box, tongue, and chin.
Essential tremor is sometimes confused with Parkinson's disease because it resembles the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. There is a debate about whether essential tremor is related to Parkinson’s disease and/or whether it can lead to Parkinson’s.
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Essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease (PD) both share many of the same symptoms, including:
Tremor begins gradually, normally on one side of the body.
Tremor can worsen with movement (normally in PD the tremor improves with movement).
Tremor usually occurs in the hands first.
Tremor may be aggravated (worsen) by emotional stress, fatigue and/or stimulants (caffeine….).
Essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease also very in many significant ways:
Essential tremor usually worsens with movement - tremor of the hand worsens when you use your hands. Parkinson’s disease tremors are generally most apparent when at rest.
Essential tremor mainly affect the hands, but the head and voice can also be affected. The Parkinson’s disease tremor usually does involve other body parts, including the hands, legs, face, chin and feet.
Although typically essential tremor symptoms are limited to the hands, head and voice sometimes, a person with essential tremor may also develop an unsteady gait known as ataxia. But Essential tremor doesn't cause other health problems. Parkinson’s disease comes with many more symptoms, including slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, stooped posture, shuffling gait, muscle stiffness, rigidity as well as balance issues.
How do you know if you have Essential Tremor or Parkinson’s disease?
Only a trained neurologist can help you determine if your symptoms indicate: Essential Tremor or Parkinson’s Disease. The problem is that there is no definitive diagnostic testing to determine the difference. Some suggest that Parkinson’s disease is much more common among those with essential tremor when others argue that there is no correlation between essential tremors and Parkinson’s disease.
A dopamine challenge can be a very useful tool to help us figure out how to correct the underlying cause of your tremor.
If you do not tolerate a dopamine challenge, you should not be considered at risk for Parkinson’s disease. If however you do tolerate the dopamine challenge, it is very likely that you will require continuous dopamine support. This is not a diagnosis for Parkinson’s disease, but it does suggest the need for additional support that is especially useful if the tremor or other related symptoms are interfering with your daily activities.