• Is It Parkinson’s Disease or Could It Be Essential Tremor?

    Information provided by the International Essential Tremor Foundation

    Essential tremor (ET) is a neurological condition that most commonly causes a rhythmic trembling of the hands while performing a task such as eating, writing, dressing or drinking, or when holding a posture such as arms outstretched in front of the body. The tremor also can affect the head, voice, legs and trunk.

    While there is no known cause, ET is thought to be related to abnormal functioning of the part of the brain called the cerebellum or a chemical in the brain called GABA.

    The following are some common ET characteristics that distinguish it from Parkinson’s:

    • Symptoms mostly seen during actions
    • Usually a family history
    • Usually starts on one side of the body and progresses to the other side; usually remains asymmetrical
    • Low amplitude; higher and faster frequency
    • Tremor is main symptom; issues with balance, walking and stiffness aren’t common

    Another differentiating factor is that dopamine is low in individuals with Parkinson’s, but not in those with ET. A special scan can be performed that measures the uptake of dopamine to arrive at a diagnosis in complicated cases.

    The International Essential Tremor Foundation (essentialtremor.org) provides helpful information you can share with your patients.

    • Order  an ET awareness poster.
    • Request free ET materials to display and share in your office.


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