Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder. It is often inherited as a familial trait but can occur sporadically as well. It occurs betwen one and five percent of people over 40 years old. Symptoms are limited to tremulous (shaking) motions of the hands, arms, legs, trunk, head or voice. Typically, the involuntary motions are most prominent when performing certain activities such as writing or holding utensils. This disorder is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. However, unlike Parkinson’s disease there are generally no tremors at rest and other neurological symptoms such as slowness, stiffness, imbalance and immobility do not occur.
This disorder is commonly treated with medications which can provide substantial relief in many patients. For those patients who have disabling symptoms and do not respond to medications there is now surgical procedure called deep brain stimulation (DBS) available that has an excellent track record of safety and effectiveness.