Essential tremor is the most common type of movement disorder, but it’s often misdiagnosed — if it’s diagnosed at all. At Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Neuroscience Institute, we know how frustrating it can be when everyday tasks, such as eating, become difficult or impossible due to uncontrollable shaking.
We specialize in diagnosing and treating essential tremor and other complex movement disorders. We’ve helped many patients improve their symptoms and quality of life. Using a personalized care approach that focuses on your concerns, we’ll help you overcome the challenges you face today and in the future.
What is essential tremor?
Essential tremor is a neurological movement disorder that causes a shaking of the hands, face, voice, or some combination of these body parts.
We don’t know what causes some people to develop essential tremor. Researchers continue to investigate how the brain and nervous system work together to direct muscle movement — and how to stop the abnormal signals that cause tremors.
At AHN, we’ll discuss the condition with you in detail and support you in every way. Learn more about our approach to movement disorders care.
Essential tremor symptoms
Essential tremor is a condition marked by repeated shaking that affects one or both sides of your body. The condition often starts in adulthood, but it can affect people at any age.
Involuntary (uncontrolled) shaking from essential tremor often:
- Starts slowly and may get more severe over time
- Affects only your hands, head, or voice (not the legs)
- Gets worse when you move (such as drinking a glass of water)
Get precise essential tremor diagnosis at Allegheny Health Network
Essential tremor is sometimes misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. AHN’s movement disorder specialists have a thorough understanding of essential tremor symptoms. They use a range of diagnostic tests to evaluate your symptoms to offer a precise diagnosis.
No single test can diagnose a movement disorder. After evaluating your symptoms, your doctor may recommend:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or other imaging tests, which can help physicians rule out conditions, such as a tumor, that might explain your symptoms
- Blood or urine tests, which can tell us if there are unusual levels of blood cells, hormones or other substances that may be causing your symptoms
- Neurological tests, which measure your muscle strength and reflexes
Get expert essential tremor treatment at Allegheny Health Network
Our team of movement disorder specialists has extensive training in diagnosing and treating movement disorders such as essential tremor. You may have access to clinical trials studying new ways to treat this condition.
After confirming a diagnosis, our care team provides a treatment plan that meets your needs. Many patients with essential tremor find that a combination of therapies helps ease their symptoms. We may meet with you regularly to address any symptoms that worsen or change over time.
Treatment options include:
- Medication: Your physician helps determine which medications would most benefit you, based on your symptoms and specific challenges. We work with you to find a medication (and dosage) that addresses your symptoms.
- Physical therapy: Certain exercises or activities may improve essential tremor symptoms. Regular activity can also benefit your health in many ways. Our knowledgeable, caring physical therapists work with you on a customized physical therapy plan.
- Speech or occupational therapy: Our specially trained speech and occupational therapists can help you relearn how to complete daily activities that have become difficult due to symptoms.
- Surgery: Certain patients experience significant symptom relief from neurosurgical procedures, such as deep brain stimulation. Our specialists have performed hundreds of these innovative procedures, which involve surgically implanting electrodes into the brain to regulate impulses.