Experiencing uncontrollable trembling of your hands, head, or voice can be scary enough that you may want to ignore it, hoping it will just disappear. However, if you develop a tremor, consider seeing a specialist sooner rather than later since the cause can range from too much stress to an underlying neurological disease like Parkinson’s.
Dr. Andrew Lerman of Gables Neurology in Miami, Florida, has extensive expertise in treating Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions that affect your health and quality of life. Read what Dr. Lerman and his team say about Parkinson’s versus essential tremor and why early diagnosis matters.
What is an essential tremor?
Essential tremor is a neurological disorder that typically affects your hands, head, and voice. It can involve both hands but usually starts on your dominant side. The condition causes uncontrollable shaking with intentional movements, such as lifting a fork while eating. It can also give your voice a trembly quality that makes speech difficult.
These tremors may come and go but often worsen over time, sometimes making it difficult to drink a glass of water, write a grocery list, or lift your phone to send a text. You can develop essential tremor disorder at any age, but it’s most common over 40 and may worsen with emotional stress, fatigue, or excess caffeine intake.
Essential tremor isn’t usually considered life-threatening. However, it can eventually interfere with your daily routine as even simple tasks such as tying your shoes, applying makeup, or holding a coffee cup can become nearly impossible.
Characteristics of Parkinson’s tremor
Tremors associated with Parkinson’s tend to occur early in the disease course and typically affect your fingers and hands first and spread to your legs, jaw, and other areas. However, unlike essential tremors that occur with movement, Parkinson’s tremors are most visible at rest and fade with intentional movement.
Parkinson’s, related to the destruction of nerve cells in your brain that control movement and mood, also causes other symptoms that worsen with disease progression.
Additional Parkison’s symptoms can include:
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia)
- Muscle stiffness in your arms, legs, and trunk
- Poor balance and coordination
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shuffling gait
- Stooped posture
- Cramped or small writing
- Difficulty sleeping
- Reduced facial expressions (facial masking)
- Softened voice tone
- Loss of vocal variations (speaking in a monotone)
- Depression and anxiety
- Difficulty making decisions
- Reduced problem-solving ability
Many people with Parkinson’s also experience loss or reduced sense of smell, sometimes occurring years before other symptoms develop.
Following an evaluation to identify the type of tremor you’re experiencing, Dr. Lerman develops comprehensive treatment strategies that vary according to the underlying cause. For essential tremors interfering with your daily life, he may recommend oral medication, physical therapy, or other treatments to reduce the severity of your tremors and their impact on your daily routine.
Parkinson’s requires more extensive treatment to slow disease progression and improve your quality of life. Dr. Lerman may recommend oral medications and procedures such as deep brain stimulation to reduce tremors, improve mobility, and control other symptoms related to Parkinson’s.
Although there’s no cure, early diagnosis and treatment can successfully delay Parkinson’s effects on your overall health and well-being.
Contact our Gables Neurology office today to learn more about the diagnostic services and treatments Dr. Lerman offers for tremors and other neurological disorders.