Essential Tremor in Australia and New Zealand

What is Essential Tremor?

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Essential tremor is a nervous system (neurological) disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking. It can affect almost any part of your body, but the trembling occurs most often in your hands — especially when you do simple tasks, such as drinking from a glass or tying shoelaces.

Essential tremor is usually not a dangerous condition, but it typically worsens over time and can be severe in some people. Other conditions don't cause essential tremor, although essential tremor is sometimes confused with Parkinson's disease.

Essential tremor can occur at any age but is most common in people age 40 and older.

How is it acquired, is it hereditary?

According to the Better Health Channel in VIC, Australia:

Essential tremor is the most common type of tremor, and affects more people than Parkinson’s disease. Some estimates suggest that around 1 in 5 people over the age of 65 years is affected.

There is no known cause, but a genetic link is strongly suspected. Each child of a person with essential tremor has a 50% chance of inheriting the disorder themselves. If a person with essential tremor has other affected family members, then the disorder is called ‘familial tremor’.

What are the treatment options?

According to the Better Health Channel in VIC, Australia:

There is no cure for essential tremor. Treatment aims to suppress the involuntary movements. To identify the best treatment, you should consult with a Neurologist. Treatments can include

  • avoidance of known triggers, such as alcohol or caffeine

  • stress management techniques

  • some medications used to treat other medical conditions, such as heart disease (beta blockers) and epilepsy (anticonvulsants) – these medications have been helpful in some cases

  • other medications, including tranquillisers

  • deep brain stimulation, a surgically implanted device that helps to short-circuit the impulses or brain waves causing the tremor

  • brain surgery to alter the part of the brain causing the tremor has been successful in some cases

  • MRI guided focused ultrasound (a treatment for some people with essential tremor, but it’s not covered by Medicare in Australia)

  • regular monitoring and observation – if the tremor is mild and doesn’t stop the person from performing their usual activities, this may be the only treatment.

Interested in having your tremor assessed?

You could start by discussing tremor with your family GP.

If appropriate a referral to a neurologist could be an option