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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Living With Essential Tremor

Though essential tremor is not life-threatening, it can be very distressing for people who have it -- especially for those whose symptoms are severe. Simple activities like eating, writing, or picking up a cup of coffee can be challenging and frustrating. As the disease progresses and tremor becomes more pronounced, many people feel anxious and embarrassed in social situations, which only makes the situation worse.

It may be very tempting to withdraw from family and friends to avoid uncomfortable situations. But don't. There are many practical "tricks," in addition to the treatments your doctor prescribes, that can help you stay active with tremor. And staying active socially is an important part of maintaining both your emotional and physical well-being. Here are some tips to make your life easier.

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Educate Yourself and Others About Essential Tremor

  • Become informed about essential tremor and learn as much as you can about living with the condition.
  • Take an active role in your treatment, and discuss your symptoms and questions with your doctor. The more you know about your condition and its treatment, the easier it will be to adapt and reduce the interference with your daily life.
  • Explain your condition simply and honestly to people you meet. This will avoid confusion on their part and embarrassment on yours.

Tips for Living With Essential Tremor

  • Find ways to reduce stress and relax.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption. While small amounts of alcohol seem to relieve essential tremor in some patients, it may interact with medications used to treat ET and also have negative effects on the body, such as alcohol dependency disorder or liver damage. Most experts do not recommend its use.
  • Consider taking a small dose of medication, such as a beta-blocker, before a social outing; this may help to reduce the tremors.
  • Avoid certain drugs that can aggravate tremor like thyroid or asthma medications before attending a social event. Be sure you check with your doctor first.
  • Avoid foods that contain caffeine like sodas, coffee, tea, and chocolate.
  • Place a napkin between cup and saucer to avoid rattling when lifting to drink.
  • Avoid awkward or uncomfortable positions.
  • Use auto dial on a cell phone.
  • Add a little weight to your hand by wearing a heavy bracelet or watch or holding something in your hand. This may reduce some tremors and restore more control to your hands.
  • Drink beverages from half-filled cups or glasses, and use a straw.
  • Get enough rest and sleep. Fatigue often makes a tremor worse.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on September 20, 2014

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