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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Diagnosing Essential Tremor

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If you are having symptoms of essential tremor (ET), you should seek the care of a neurologist. During the evaluation, your doctor will ask you questions about your health, your family medical history, medicines you may be taking, and any surgeries you have had. You should tell your doctor about factors that worsen or alleviate the tremor.

The doctor will perform a thorough evaluation, noting what part of your body is affected by tremor, when it occurs, and if there is evidence of other features that could indicate a movement disorder other than ET. Imaging tests such as MRI and CT scans are not helpful in diagnosing essential tremor, but they may be performed to rule out other possible tremor causes.

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Besides Essential Tremor, What Else Causes Tremors?

Tremors can be caused by a variety of other conditions or lifestyle factors. What differentiates them is the timing of the tremor. It is important to ascertain whether the tremors occur at rest, with sustained posture, or with certain movements.

Several different types of medications and drugs may cause tremor. These include:

  • Alcohol (chronic use)
  • Antiarrythmia drugs (like Cordarone, Procanbid)
  • Anticonvulsants (seizure drugs, such as Tegretol and Dilantin)
  • Lithium (especially when combined with other medications such as anticonvulsants or antidepressants)
  • Reglan
  • Nicotine
  • Cocaine
  • Albuterol (an asthma drug sold under the brand name Proventil or Ventolin)
  • Ritalin
  • Sudafed
  • Certain antidepressants like Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Pamelor, and others

Other causes of tremor may include:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Drug withdrawal
  • Thyroid problems
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke



WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on September 20, 2014

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