Essential Tremor

What is essential tremor?

Essential tremor (also known as benign essential tremor and familial tremor) is a common movement disorder that involves a tremor (unwanted and uncontrolled shaking) in both hands and arms during action and when standing still. It also may affect your head and voice and how you walk. However, essential tremor is not the same as Parkinson's disease. There is no cure for essential tremor, but treatments are available to ease symptoms. 

Neurological symptoms may include:

  • Uncontrolled shaking in the hands and arms
  • A shaky voice
  • Problems with walking or balance
  • A shaky motion of the head

Risk factors include:

  • Genetics—About 50 percent of the cases of essential tremor are thought to be caused by a genetic risk factor (referred to as familial tremor).  Children of a parent who has familial tremor have greater risk of inheriting the condition. Familial forms of essential tremor often appear early in life.
  • Age—Although essential tremor can start at any age, it is most common in people between ages 40 and 50.  

The exact cause of essential tremor is unknown. Studies show essential tremor is accompanied by a mild degeneration of the cerebellum, which is the part of your brain that controls movement. In some people, certain medications can cause tremor. Heightened emotion, stress, fever, physical exhaustion, or low blood sugar may trigger tremors or increase their severity.

Although essential tremor is not life-threatening, it can make it harder to perform daily tasks and is embarrassing to some people. Symptomatic drug therapy may include beta blocking drugs like propranolol, anti-seizure drugs like primidone, and tranquilizers. Eliminating tremor "triggers" such as caffeine and other stimulants from the diet is often recommended.

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Learn About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with essential tremor?

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about essential tremor and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with essential tremor at Clinicaltrials.gov.

Where can I find more information about essential tremor?

Information may be available from the following resources:

HopeNet
Phone: 804-754-4455

International Essential Tremor Foundation
Phone: 913-341-3880 or 888-387-366

MedlinePlus

Tremor Action Network
Phone: 510-681-6565

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