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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Symptoms of Essential Tremor

The term "tremor" is used to describe the uncontrollable shaking associated with essential tremor (ET), a symptom that can be caused by many different factors and diseases -- including Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, fatigue after exercise, extreme emotional distress, brain tumors, some prescription drugs, metabolic abnormalities, and alcohol or drug withdrawal.

Tremors can be classified as those that occur when:

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  • A person is moving (action tremor)
  • A person is not moving (rest tremor)
  • A person attempts to maintain posture against gravity (postural tremor), as in holding arms out in front of his/her body

Essential tremor is a postural tremor, so symptoms are usually relieved with rest. But as the disorder advances, the tremors of ET may begin to occur when the muscles are relaxed.

What Symptoms Suggest Essential Tremor?

  • Uncontrollable tremors that occur for brief periods of time
  • A shaking voice
  • Nodding head
  • Tremors that worsen during periods of emotional stress
  • Tremors that get worse with purposeful movement
  • Tremor lessens with rest
  • Tremors are the only symptom (Although rare, a person with ET may suffer from balance problems.)

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on September 20, 2014

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