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Frequently Asked Questions About Essential Tremor

Print these questions and answers to discuss with your doctor.

1. What is essential tremor?

Essential tremor (ET) is a movement disorder characterized by uncontrollable shaking (tremors) in different parts and on different sides of the body. Areas affected often include the hands, arms, head, larynx (voice box), tongue, chin, and other areas. In rare cases, the lower body is affected.

2. What are the symptoms of essential tremor?

The primary symptoms associated with essential tremor include:

  • Uncontrollable shaking that occurs for brief periods of time
  • Shaking voice
  • Nodding head
  • Tremors that worsen during periods of emotional stress
  • Tremors that worsen with purposeful movement
  • Tremors that lessen with rest
  • Balance problems, in rare cases

3. What happens if I get pregnant? Can I take my medicine?

Tremor severity may fluctuate during pregnancy and after delivery. Discuss the use of ET medications with your doctor before getting pregnant, as some drugs put the developing baby at risk.

4. 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 medications and surgical procedures that ease tremor. Not every treatment or procedure is effective for every person with ET, but most patients find satisfactory relief. Your doctor will recommend an individualized treatment plan, including certain lifestyle changes that may help to reduce your tremors.

5. Are there alternative therapies for essential tremor?

There is currently no evidence that alternative therapies are beneficial in treating essential tremor. Patients who have tremors that worsen with emotional stress may find relaxation therapies helpful, but this type of alternative therapy is certainly not a treatment. Some herbal supplements may actually increase tremor. Always consult your doctor before trying any alternative therapy.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on September 20, 2014

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