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A tremor is an involuntary, somewhat rhythmic, muscle contraction and relaxation involving back-and-forth movements of one or more body parts. It can affect the hands, arms, eyes, face, head, vocal cords, trunk, and legs. Most tremors occur in the hands. In some people, tremor is a symptom of another neurological disorder. Someone with a tremor may have a hard time drawing or writing, or holding utensils. A tremor may be come on intermittently, or be occasional or temporary, and occurs in men and women equally.
Essential Tremor (ET)
Many people over retirement age have a condition called Essential Tremor, also called ET. Although the symptoms can look like Parkinson’s disease, it is not known to be related. It can often develop later in the neck, jaw, and tongue, and be most apparent in the voice of the sufferer.
Tremor can be caused by a large number of things, some serious, some not serious. If any symptoms persist you should see your physician. One major causes is stress, but others include carpal tunnel syndrome, stroke, lack of sleep, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, chronic kidney disease, nerve damage (sometimes temporary), side effects of medications, including SSRIs, fever, alcoholism, Parkinson’s disease, liver failure, thyroid problems, and heavy metal poisoning (especially mercury from dental fillings).
One possible cause that has recurred in studies is heavy metal poisoning. Most heavy metals are toxic to the human body except in minutely small amounts. However, pollution over a hundred years or more has put a large amount in the soils. This pollution in the environment has been linked to various conditions and diseases, with different metals affecting the kidneys and liver (lead, mercury, cadmium and copper), skin, teeth and bones (nickel, cadmium, chromium and copper), and, in this case, the central nervous system (lead, mercury and arsenic). All of these elements are found in the various organs of the body they affect.
Causes are not clear, with research suggesting that there may be a genetic component linked to a family of degenerative diseases. Equally important is stress, which appears to be a contributing factor in many cases. It is known to make the symptoms worse, but not necessarily to always be a cause. In some cases the symptoms are progressive. Emotional duress and physical exhaustion can also lead to tremor.
A deficiency in magnesium and thiamine has also been known to cause tremor. Once the deficiency is brought back into balance, the tremor is usually resolved.
Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, a form of hyperthyroidism, may also be a cause of tremor. A physical exam may be used to help diagnose Graves’ Disease. During the exam, the physician will look for tremors in the hands or fingers, often symptoms of a hyperthyroid disorder..
Many medications can make tremors worse, especially ones that stimulate the body, such as weight loss meds, amphetamines, ADHD medications, decongestants, caffeine, illegal drugs, alcohol, and some asthma medications. If you are on any of these products, get off them immediately and stay off them for a few weeks. Have your doctor monitor your condition, and, if you haven’t made progress in a time-frame he suggests, request a neurological examination to rule out (or discover) an underlying cause. If your doctor is unwilling to work with you, seek a second opinion.
Your doctor will use a treatment based on the cause of the tremor, and may include supplements, physical therapy, and stress management. In addition, treatments may include beta-blockers, tranquilizers, and antiepileptic drugs.
Talking to Your Doctor
When you go in for an exam your doctor will ask about:
He will also want to know when the tremor occurs:
The (non-protein) amino acid l-theanine, found in green tea and some mushrooms, has been used to treat tremor. It is available in supplement form and is regarded as safe by the FDA. Studies, chiefly in Japan, have shown that it reduces both mental and physical stress. It directly stimulates alpha brainwaves, which cause a deep relaxation but also allow the mind to remain alert. This means relaxation without drowsiness.
• Physical therapy
This is used in mild cases of ET to strengthen the muscles affected by tremor.
• Deep Brain Stimulation
This medical procedure, involving the implanting of devices that send electrical charges to targeted sections of the brain, is used in more serious cases of ET.