Dr. Joon Faii Ong is a world-renowned expert on Essential Tremors (ET) whose research is studied across the globe. He discusses what Essential Tremors are and eight signs of ET that you should not ignore.
What Are Essential Tremors?
Essential Tremors (ET) is a neurological disease with an unknown cause. It affects 2-3% of adults, more commonly affecting elderly people. The tremors are most obvious when the body part is at complete rest, and there’s no way to mask it. There are three types of Essential Tremors – dystonic, metabolic, and pure essential tremors. Dystonic tremors are related to dystonia, metabolic to diabetes, and pure essential tremor is the one we’ll be talking about in this article.
Essential Tremor is not Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis (MS). However, they do share similar symptoms. For example, ET patients often twist and turn their hands to mask the tremors, especially when around other people.
There is no cure for Essential Tremor, although surgery may be recommended for some patients. In addition, it can lead to depression, low self-esteem, and a negative image due to fear of judgment from others when symptoms are obvious.
What Causes Essential Tremors?
ET is caused by malfunctioning of the part of the body which is responsible for controlling muscle movement. 70% are genetic, 20% are due to brain damage, and 10% have no known cause. They are not life-threatening, although they can interfere with daily activities if left untreated, especially when tremors become more obvious at night or when patients are tired.
What Are The Symptoms Of Essential Tremors?
Essential tremors typically begin in the hands and spread throughout the body. As a result, patients often have trouble holding their utensils, drinking from a cup, or speaking clearly. In addition, it can interfere with daily activities such as eating, writing, or dressing oneself. There are three types of ET – simple, complex, and reverse.
A simple tremor is when the hands shake when at rest. It’s easy to resolve by holding something like a glass or using other body parts such as elbows for drinking instead of hands. Complex tremor is when the limbs shake even when at complete rest, often becoming more obvious at night or after stress. This can be more difficult to resolve. Reverse tremor is when limbs shake when stressed or activated, e.g., when playing the piano.
How Is Essential Tremor Treated?
Reassurance and education are very important in reducing patients’ anxiety about their condition. Doctors will only recommend medication if they are unsuitable for surgery or if the tremors are extremely severe.
There is no cure for Essential Tremor, but treatment options include Botox injections to calm the muscles or surgery to implant electrodes near the thalamus, a part of the brain responsible for controlling movement. These treatments can improve symptoms by up to 80%, and patients report increased quality of life.
What Are The Emergency Symptoms Of Essential Tremors?
Eight essential tremor symptoms may indicate something is seriously wrong with the patient.
1. Sudden or rapid onset of tremors
2. Tremors which become more obvious at night time
3. Severe pain anywhere in the body
4. Loss of bladder or bowel control
5. Vision problems, e.g., blurred vision, double vision
6. Difficulty swallowing or speaking
7. Swelling in limbs for no clear reason
8. Numbness anywhere in the body