March is National Tremor Awareness month, organised by the National Tremor Foundation. If you have never heard of Essential Tremor, here are a few notes about the condition.
What is Essential Tremor? Essential Tremor, known as ET for short, is one of the most common disorders of the human nervous system affecting movement. People with ET show a rhythmic trembling of their hands, head legs, body or voice.
Who is affected by ET? At least 5% of all cases are in childhood, but all ages can be affected and it is more commonly noticed in older individuals.
How common is it? ET affects over 1 million people in UK which is about 1½ percent of the population, or one in every 65.
Where does it come from? It is estimated that 60% of all cases are inherited, with one or both parents or grandparents having suffered. The shaking can be in different places within the same family.
Is it the same as Parkinsons? The Tremors are often confused with Parkinsons, but are easily distinguished by your doctor.
Is Parkinsons more frequent? ET is estimated to be 8-10 times more common than Parkinsons.
Does it get worse? ET is a progressive disorder, so as sufferers get older the symptoms will become more evident and troublesome.
For example, shaking a cup when you try to drink from it causes spillage. Shaking the cutlery when you are eating makes a loud clattering on the plate, handwriting is distorted, and so on.
How do we recognise ET? For a proper diagnosis , a visit to a GP is advised, and in view of the possible heredity nature it will be useful to be able to say if any close relatives also have, or had the symptoms.
Is it aggravated by stress? In the short term, stress and anxiety can worsen the condition.
Is it treatable? Treatments depend on accurate diagnosis as to the cause of the tremor, and your GP will decide which is likely to be the best for you.
At the moment there is no absolute 'cure' for ET but research is continuing, but the part of the brain 'responsible' for the tremors has been identified and certain medications which alleviate the problem have been developed.