By Dhira Khosla, Medical Director at Cala Health |
Essential Tremor (ET) is a disorder that affects movement. It is most recognized by uncontrollable tremors in different parts of the body. Typically, areas with uncontrollable shaking include:
- And others
In some cases, even the lower body can be affected by the disorder. Essential tremor has many symptoms, some of which include uncontrollable tremors, head nodding, tremors that worsen with stress, and more. The good news is that there are ways to treat essential tremors and allow many people to go on and lead normal lives.
Essential Tremor Diagnosis
Essential tremor is diagnosed by a neurologist and treated individually depending on the person, their medical history, and the intensity of the tremor. During an evaluation, your doctor will ask you questions about your health, medical history, and any medications you’re on. They will also ask you about your family medical history to determine if anyone else in your family has had ET. This evaluation will help determine if there are ways to help alleviate the tremors you experience.
It is also possible that your doctor will use imaging tests, such as MRI scans, to rule out other causes of the tremor.
Treatment of Essential Tremor
There are many different treatment options available for those suffering from ET, including:
Surgery may only be helpful for those with tremors if the tremor is not controlled with drug therapy. There are three types of surgical treatments available, but your doctor will tell you which ones might work best for you.
Some patients, including those with other medical conditions, may not be candidates for surgical treatment.
ET can be managed with prescription drugs such as beta-blockers, anti-seizure, and anti-anxiety medications. Drugs are typically prescribed when ET interferes with daily activity. Your doctor will determine which drug treatment is best for you based on any other medical conditions you might have and the safety of the drugs available.
Ultimately, prescription medications can help improve function. With medications, patients typically see an improvement in shaking and other functions like using utensils. Patients with mild ET can see dramatic improvements in their day-to-day lives with prescriptions.
It is also recommended that people with ET minimize exposure to stress-inducing situations and avoid caffeine and nicotine, which can increase tremors.
Alternative Treatments for Essential Tremor
There are many available alternative treatments for essential tremor, including acupuncture, cupping, and herbal therapy. Also healthcare tech companies are making devices for individualized solutions. For example, Cala Trio™ offers a non-invasive individualized treatment for ET that reduces hand tremor with a wearable that uses electrical stimulation to provide short-term tremor relief.
Before deciding on an alternative treatment, discuss with your doctor to determine if it’s the right product for you.
Is There a Cure?
Essential tremor cannot be cured, but it can be managed with many of the treatments listed above to improve a patient’s quality of life. Not every treatment will be effective for every case, so it’s important to work with a healthcare provider who has experience treating essential tremors.
Living With Essential Tremor
Essential tremor makes day-to-day tasks, like taking a sip of coffee and tying your shoes, more difficult. It’s a visible disorder that can be seen by those around you. To people without essential tremor, it will look like a part of your body is shaking while you’re trying to do activities, such as holding your arm out straight.
Essential tremor is non-life-threatening, but it can impact your ability to accomplish daily tasks. While symptoms range from mild to severe, those with severe symptoms typically have a difficult time eating and taking care of themselves, while others with mild symptoms experience frustration.
ET progresses as you age, making tremors more intense and pronounced, which can be embarrassing in social situations. The stress from these situations can also make your tremor worse.
Some people with ET may withdraw from family and friends, but it’s not recommended to avoid social situations or people. Remember, staying social is an important way to maintain your emotional well-being while you’re struggling with a health concern.
What Can I Do At Home?
There are tips to help you manage your day-to-day, but you should always talk to your doctor about treatment options to help you better manage your symptoms and lead a more active lifestyle. Here’s how you can manage your ET at home:
ET can worsen during periods of emotional distress, so it’s important to find ways to manage your stress levels. If you get stressed and your tremor gets worse, you can easily get caught in a cycle of being stressed and having an overwhelming tremor. Managing your stress can help avoid this so that you can live a happy, healthy life.
Alcohol may interact with your medications, but it can also cause you to have negative feelings, which can lead to stress. It’s best to avoid alcohol when you’re treating ET.
Caffeine can increase your heart rate and induce stress, making your tremors worse. By avoiding caffeine, you can keep your cortisol levels down to reduce your tremors.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Fatigue can make your cortisol levels rise, so you must take care of your mental and physical health by getting enough quality sleep each night.
Living with essential tremors can be difficult, but there are many possible treatments out there that can help you live a more fulfilled life. Talk to your doctor to discover what’s available for you.
About The Author
Dhira Khosla is a Medical Director at Cala Health. She leads the Medical Affairs team and acts as Principal Investigator with oversight of clinical activities.