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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Essential tremor

*

* Not a rare disease

Other Names for this Disease

  • Benign essential tremor
  • Familial essential tremor
  • Hereditary essential tremor
  • Presenile tremor syndrome
  • Tremor, hereditary essential, 1
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Overview

What is essential tremor?

What causes essential tremor?

Is essential tremor inherited?

How might essential tremor be treated?

What is essential tremor?

Essential tremor is a disorder of the nervous system that causes involuntary, rhythmic shaking (tremor), especially in the hands. It involves tremor without any other signs or symptoms, and is distinguished from tremor that results from other disorders or known causes, such as tremors seen with Parkinson disease or head trauma.[1] Essential tremor (sometimes called benign essential tremor) is the most common of the more than 20 types of tremor.[2] The causes of essential tremor are unknown. Several genes as well as environmental factors likely play a role in a person's risk of developing this complex condition.[1] In mild cases, treatment may not be necessary. In cases where symptoms interfere with daily living, medications may help to relieve symptoms.[3] 

 

Last updated: 9/12/2014

What causes essential tremor?

The causes of essential tremor are unknown. Researchers are studying several areas (loci) on particular chromosomes that may be linked to essential tremor, but no specific genetic associations have been confirmed. Several genes, as well as environmental factors, are likely involved in an individual's risk of developing this complex condition.[1] 
Last updated: 9/12/2014

Is essential tremor inherited?

About half of all cases of essential tremor appear to occur because of a genetic mutation. This is referred to as familial tremor.[4] In these cases, essential tremor appears to be passed through generations in families, but the inheritance pattern varies. In many affected families, the condition appears to be inherited in an autosomal dominant manner, which means one copy of an altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disorder. In other families, the inheritance pattern is unclear. Essential tremor may also appear in people with no history of the disorder in their family.[1]

In some families, there are individuals who have essential tremor while others have other movement disorders, such as involuntary muscle tensing (dystonia). The potential genetic connection between essential tremor and other movement disorders is an active area of research.[1].  

Last updated: 9/12/2014

How might essential tremor be treated?

Treatment for essential tremor may not be necessary unless the tremors interfere with daily activities or cause embarrassment.[3] Although there is no definitive cure for essential tremor, medicines may help relieve symptoms.[2][3] How well medicines work depend on the individual patient.[3] Two medications used to treat tremors include:[2][3]
  • Propranolol, a drug that blocks the action of stimulating substances called neurotransmitters, particularly those related to adrenaline
  • Primidone, an antiseizure drug that also control the function of some neurotransmitters

These drugs can have significant side effects.[3]

Eliminating tremor "triggers" such as caffeine and other stimulants from the diet is often recommended. Physical therapy may help to reduce tremor and improve coordination and muscle control for some patients.[2]
 
More details about the management of essential tremor can be accessed through the following web links:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/essential-tremor/DS00367/METHOD=print&DSECTION=all 
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1150290-treatment

Last updated: 9/12/2014

References
  1. Essential tremor. Genetics Home Reference (GHR). June 2013; http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/essential-tremor. Accessed 9/12/2014.
  2. NINDS Essential Tremor Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). April 25, 2013; http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/essential_tremor/essential_tremor.htm. Accessed 9/12/2014.
  3. Essential tremor. MedlinePlus. March 31, 2011; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000762.htm. Accessed 9/12/2014.
  4. Essential tremor. MayoClinic.com. 2013; http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/essential-tremor/DS00367/METHOD=print&DSECTION=all. Accessed 5/5/2013.


Other Names for this Disease
  • Benign essential tremor
  • Familial essential tremor
  • Hereditary essential tremor
  • Presenile tremor syndrome
  • Tremor, hereditary essential, 1
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.