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What are Tremors?
Tremors are involuntary, shaking movements of any part of the body. It usually affects the hands, lower arms and head. Tremors may occur at any age but more commonly affect the elderly. Tremors are often a sign of a neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s but may also result from emotional stress.
While some tremors are perfectly normal, it is very important to contact your health practitioner if they worsen. If left untreated, tremors can interfere with normal day-to-day activities and result in further health complications.
The most common types of tremors include:
- Essential tremor is the most common type of tremor. It often affects the hands and head but may also affect other parts of the body such as the muscles. It runs in families and is also referred to as familial tremor.
- Parkinsonian tremor occurs at rest but may slow down or disappear when the person moves. Movement begins in one side of the body and slowly moves to the other side.
- Dystonic tremor occurs in individuals who are affected by a movement disorder called dystonia (involuntary muscle contractions cause twitching, repetitive motions and abnormal positions or postures). Any muscle in the body may be affected by this tremor and often occurs when the individual moves in a particular way or position. This type of tremor occurs irregularly and may be alleviated by complete rest.
- Cerebellar tremor (Intention tremor) is also known as intention tremor. These tremors are slower with broader, coarser movements. They occur when an affected part of the body is moving or active and disappears at rest.
The diagnosis of tremors are based on a complete medical history and performing a physical examination. Additional tests may be ordered if your doctor suspects that the tremor is caused by an underlying condition. These tests include blood tests, urine tests, CT scan, MRI or electromyogram.
The most common symptoms and signs of tremors include:
- May occur occasionally, in episodes or at various intervals
- May affect head, hands, eyelids or other muscles
- Shaky, quivering voice
- Nodding of the head
- Worsens with voluntary movement
- Worsens with emotional stress
What causes Tremors?
Tremors develop when parts of the brain or spinal cord have difficulty controlling the muscles throughout the body.
Neurological disorders can cause uncontrollable tremors and these include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Head injury
Other causes include:
- Certain drugs such as amphetamines, corticosteroids, caffeine, antidepressants, antipsychotics, lithium, and the withdrawal of alcohol
- Wilson’s disease
- Over-active thyroid
- Liver failure
- Mercury poisoning
- A symptom of hypoglycemia
- Lack of sleep or vitamins such Vitamin B1 or magnesium
- Stress and anxiety
Help for Tremor
Treatment depends on diagnosis of the underlying cause. Medications such as beta blockers or anti-convulsant drugs may be used to treat essential tremors. Individuals suffering from Parkinson’s may be prescribed anti-parkinson drugs such as levodopa. Head, voice and tremors have been treated effectively with Botulinum toxin A.
Complementary therapy such as physical therapy may also be recommended to lessen tremors, improve muscle control and co-ordination. Occupational therapy may also be beneficial in helping the patient use practical strategies and adaptive aids that can reduce the effects of tremor on everyday life.
Surgery in the brain region may also be required if the tremors are severe. Certain surgical procedures such as thalomotomy involve part of the thalamus being destroyed, and pallidotomy in which a small structure within the brain is destroyed.
More Information on Tremors
Tips to reduce tremors
While there is no way to prevent tremors, certain steps can be taken to reduce tremors and these include:
- Eliminate triggers such as caffeinate from your diet
- Practice balancing and co-ordination exercises
- Avoid taking certain drugs such as amphetamines as they can cause tremors
- Avoid excessive intake of alcohol – small amounts of alcohol have been known to reduce tremors
- Reduce stress by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga