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Tremor

Tremor

Topic Overview

Tremor is an involuntary shaking movement that is repeated over and over. Although it may affect any part of the body, tremor most often affects the hands and head. Your voice may also shake. Sometimes the feet or torso may also shake.

Essential tremor, which sometimes runs in families, is one of the most common types of tremor. It is shaking that is most noticeable when you are doing something like lifting a cup or pointing at an object. The shaking does not occur when you are not moving. Medicine can help reduce the shaking. Brain surgery can be helpful in some cases.

Tremors can also be caused by conditions or medicines that affect the nervous system, including Parkinson's disease , liver failure, alcoholism, mercury or arsenic poisoning, lithium, and certain antidepressants. Side effects from other medicines can also cause tremors.

If you notice a tremor, observe it carefully and note what seems to make it better or worse before calling your doctor. There are some differences between essential tremor and tremor caused by Parkinson's disease. If a cause is discovered, the disease will be treated rather than the tremor.

When to Call a Doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • You suddenly develop a tremor or if an existing tremor becomes worse.
  • Tremor interferes with your ability to do daily activities or keeps you from taking part in social events.
  • You suspect that tremor may be a side effect of a medicine.

Treatment Overview

Some tremors can be treated with medicine or surgery.

  • A tremor caused by Parkinson's disease may get better if your Parkinson's disease is treated.
  • Essential tremor is usually treated with medicine, such as:
    • Primidone (for example, Mysoline).
    • Propranolol (for example, Inderal).

Essential tremor that doesn't get better with medicine may be treated with surgery, such as:

Home Treatment

  • Stress reduction can sometimes help to reduce tremors . For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
  • Add a little weight to your hand by wearing a heavy bracelet or watch or holding something in your hand. This may reduce some tremors and restore more control to your hands.
  • Drink beverages from half-filled cups or glasses, and use a straw.
  • Get enough rest and sleep. Fatigue often makes a tremor worse.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
NIH Neurological Institute
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD  20824
Phone: 1-800-352-9424
Phone: (301) 496-5751
TDD: (301) 468-5981
Web Address: www.ninds.nih.gov
 

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, is the leading U.S. federal government agency supporting research on brain and nervous system disorders. It provides the public with educational materials and information about these disorders.


American Academy of Family Physicians: FamilyDoctor.org
P.O. Box 11210
Shawnee Mission, KS 66207-1210
Phone: 1-800-274-2237
Fax: (913) 906-6075
Web Address: www.familydoctor.org
 

The website FamilyDoctor.org is sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians. It offers information on adult and child health conditions and healthy living. There are topics on medicines, doctor visits, physical and mental health issues, parenting, and more.


WE MOVE
5731 Mosholu Avenue
Bronx, NY  10471
Email: wemove@wemove.org
Web Address: www.wemove.org
 

WE MOVE is an Internet resource for movement disorder information. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to educating people about the latest treatment options for neurologic movement disorders. WE MOVE also has information on support groups and hosts discussions and chat rooms on the website.


References

Other Works Consulted

  • Ropper AH, Samuels MA (2009). Tremor, myoclonus, focal dystonias, and tics. In Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology, 9th ed., pp. 89–110. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Zesiewicz TA, et al. (2011). Evidence-based guideline update: Treatment of essential tremor. Neurology 77(19): 1752–1755.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer G. Frederick Wooten, MD - Neurology
Last Revised December 5, 2012

Last Revised: December 5, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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