Tremors are involuntary and rhythmic movements of the muscles that occur chronically and repetitiously. Some tremors are benign, but others are caused by underlying health conditions affecting the central or peripheral nervous system. Most tremors occur in the hands or head, although they may appear at any point on the body.
Anyone can develop a tremor – including otherwise healthy individuals. Tremors are most common after age 40, and individuals with a family history of tremors may be more likely to develop the shaking during their lifetimes. Furthermore, individuals who consume large quantities of alcohol are prone to developing tremors, as are individuals with overactive thyroids.
Essential tremor is a benign neurological disorder that often runs in families. Essential tremors do not pose any threat to health, but they can negatively affect quality of life. Usually, essential tremors only occur during movement, such as when holding a pen or picking up the phone. This can be severely disruptive for day-to-day tasks and may worsen over time.
Tremors Caused by Underlying Health Conditions
There are many neurological diseases and other health conditions that can cause tremors. Parkinson’s disease is most associated with tremors, as this disease causes persistent shaking in its earliest stages. Tremors may also be a sign of some type of poisoning, such as mercury poisoning or liver failure due to alcoholism. In some cases, tremors may be linked to a medication.
In order to make an accurate diagnosis, a neurologist may order a series of neurological and laboratory tests. Blood and urine tests, for example, are useful for detecting thyroid disease or toxins that may be causing symptoms. Posture and coordination tests, on the other hand, may be helpful for detecting the earliest signs of Parkinson’s disease.
Treatment and Management
A neurologist is trained and experienced in detecting the underlying cause of tremors and managing the diseases that cause them. In the case of essential tremors, which are not caused by an underlying health condition, medications may be used to manage symptoms and restore normal movement capabilities. If the cause of a tremor is found to be health-related, a treatment plan will be devised to manage the underlying condition causing the chronic shaking. Some patients may experience fewer or weaker tremors by eliminating stimulant foods that contain caffeine, and they may also gain better coordination and muscle control with routine physical therapy.