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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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The Brain and Essential Tremor

Can Essential Tremor Increase the Risk for Other Illnesses?

Essential tremor is linked to other illnesses. Other movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, have been associated with ET. Some reports have also linked ET with migraine headaches.

Drugs used to treat essential tremor may also increase a person's risk of becoming depressed.

Most experts believe that there is no increased risk for Parkinson's disease for people with ET. On the other hand, some people diagnosed as having ET are initially incorrectly diagnosed and subsequently turn out to have Parkinson's disease.

How Is Essential Tremor Diagnosed?

A doctor can usually diagnose essential tremor based on reported symptoms and a complete neurological exam. There is no specific blood, urine, or other test used to diagnose ET.

As part of the exam, your health care provider may consider other causes of tremor, such as thyroid disease, excessive caffeine intake, or medication side effects.

How Is Essential Tremor Treated?

Mild essential tremor may not require treatment. However, if ET interferes with your ability to function or if you find it socially unacceptable, there are treatments that may improve symptoms. Treatments may include medications or surgery.

  • Medications: Oral drugs can significantly reduce the severity of essential tremor. Medications include Inderal, Mysoline, Topamax, and Neurontin. Other drug options include the tranquilizers Klonopin, Valium, Xanax, and Ativan. Botox injections may also be a treatment option. This treatment has been effective for vocal and head tremors.
  • Surgery: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment option for people with severe tremor despite medical therapy. DBS involves surgical implantation of electrical leads into the thalamus. This is an area deep within the brain that coordinates muscle control that is thought to be affected in ET.

Can Essential Tremor Be Prevented?

Because we do not know the exact cause of essential tremor, there is currently no way to prevent it. However, knowing that ET has a genetic link brings us further in the search for effective treatments and, ultimately, ways to prevent it.

Can Essential Tremor Be Cured?

There is no cure for essential tremor, but treatments that provide relief from its symptoms may be helpful in improving quality of life. These include drugs and surgery that ease tremor. But not every treatment or procedure is effective for every person with ET. Your doctor will recommend an individualized treatment plan, including certain lifestyle changes that may help to reduce your tremors.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on September 20, 2014
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