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Essential tremor is a movement disorder, meaning it affects parts of the brain that control body movement (motor function).
It is a type of involuntary shaking movement. Essential tremor causes have not been identified, but it is often a symptom of another condition, such as:
The shaking is very rapid, generally more than five times a second.
Essential tremor is the most common type of tremor and is mainly found in people over age 65. An essential tremor is not dangerous or life-threatening, but it can be annoying and embarrassing for many people.
In some cases, it may be dramatic enough to interfere with:
Several treatment options can help control symptoms of essential tremor. People whose symptoms have not responded well to medication alone may be candidates for deep brain stimulation at UPMC.
The involuntary shaking of essential tremor is generally small, rapid motions that occur more than five times per second.
It is most commonly noticed in the hands, but it may also affect your:
Essential tremor is very rare in the legs and feet. The tremors may not affect both sides of your body the same way.
To diagnose essential tremor, your doctor will ask for your medical history and perform a physical exam, looking for specific essential tremor symptoms such as:
In general, essential tremor does not affect coordination or mental function.
Blood tests and imaging studies, such as MRI and CT scans, usually show no problems.
Essential tremor, like many movement disorders, can be treated but not cured.
Treatment options depend on:
Experts at UPMC offer many state-of-the-art treatments to alleviate the symptoms of movement disorders and allow patients to lead fuller and more independent lives.
Essential tremor medications commonly used to alleviate tremors are:
Your doctors will work closely with you to monitor your response to medication and any side effects.
UPMC is a leader in treating movement disorders such as essential tremor with deep brain stimulation, and now offers both standard and MRI-guided asleep DBS, depending on your condition.
Deep brain stimulation delivers electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement, blocking the neuronal signals that cause abnormal movement. DBS gives significant benefit in 80-90 percent of people who undergo the procedure for essential tremor.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a painless procedure that uses hundreds of highly focused radiation beams to target deep brain regions to create precise functional lesions within the brain, with no surgical incision. Gamma Knife may be a treatment option for patients with essential tremor who are high risk for surgery due to medical conditions or advanced age.
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