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Essential tremor is a disorder of the nervous system that causes a rhythmic shaking of a part of the body, most commonly hands. Essential tremor can also affect your head, voice, arms, or legs.
Often the symptoms begin gradually. People who have mild symptoms may cope for years without treatment, though they are can become frustrated and limited by their tremor. Unfortunately, for many the symptoms get worse and can be severe.
People who don’t have essential tremor often don’t understand its impact. They assume the tremor is annoying but no big deal.
You know that essential tremor is a big deal. The symptoms can make even everyday things difficult, like writing, drinking, eating, shaving, and putting on make-up. Essential tremor can make it difficult to work, take care of yourself, and do what you love.
In medical terms, a tremor that keeps you from doing what you want to do is called disabling. What’s “disabling” is unique for every individual. For example, a guitarist would place a high value on being able to play. Other people want to continue working, stay independent, or take care of their families.
Consider ways that essential tremor is affecting you personally. Ask yourself: What’s difficult day to day? What can’t you do because of essential tremor? Do you avoid certain situations? Do you worry about losing your dignity? Are you at home or alone more than you’d like? How does your condition impact your family? Consider how all of this makes you feel.
Is it time to explore your treatment options?
A medication is often tried first. Many people find that medications do not work to control their tremor, and can have intolerable side effects like sleepiness, dizziness, or thinking problems.1
Another treatment option for you may be deep brain stimulation or DBS, which uses a medical device to stimulate the source of the symptoms. Studies have shown that DBS therapy provides improved ability to do everyday activities, less tremor, and less disability (as reported by the patients).
The right time to talk with your doctor about DBS is now — so you know all your options and can act at the right time.
Zesiewicz TA, Elble R, Louis ED et al. Practice parameter: therapies for essential tremor: report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2005;64:2008-2020.