Essential tremor is usually not a dangerous condition, but it typically worsens over time and can be severe in some people. Other conditions don't cause essential tremor, although essential tremor is sometimes confused with Parkinson's disease.
Essential tremor can occur at any age but is most common in people age 40 and older.
Essential tremor signs and symptoms:
• Begin gradually, usually more prominently on one side of the body
• Worsen with movement
• Usually occur in the hands first, affecting one hand or both hands
• Can include a "yes-yes" or "no-no" motion of the head
• May be aggravated by emotional stress, fatigue, caffeine or temperature extremes
About half of essential tremor cases appear to result from a genetic mutation. This form is referred to as familial tremor. It isn't clear what causes essential tremor in people without a known genetic mutation.
Essential tremor isn't life-threatening, but symptoms often worsen over time. If the tremors become severe, you might find it difficult to:
• Hold a cup or glass without spilling
• Eat normally
• Put on makeup or shave
• Talk, if your voice box or tongue is affected
• Write legibly”
According to an & treatment article on the National Institute of Health, the age- and gender-adjusted prevalence of ET is estimated to be 3 to 4 per 1000, with an annual incidence of 23.7 per 100,000.
What does this mean for me and for us as a couple? I apparently have a mild case (at this point). When I had a video appointment with my doctor it was as if I’d gone to the mechanic - the tremors weren’t that bad, and it was early in the morning (it seems to be worse as the day progresses). My son noticed it for the first time yesterday when we had lunch together and he commented on it.
I’ve had it for a while; it is getting more intense. I notice things like this:
- My writing is getting harder to read (I bought super-fine tip pens a few years ago hoping it would help me read my own notes!).
- My hands shake so badly it’s nearly impossible to cut my nails.
- Pouring soap from a large container into a small one is now mostly my husband’s job because I spill so much due to the shaking.
- My food falls off my fork everyday (to a lesser or greater degree) due to shaking hands. I had to use my Miso soup spoon to eat my sushi recently because I couldn’t use chopsticks for the first time. I was sad about that, especially in public.
- I almost always use two hands to hold my glass when I drink now.
- I often have to hold my phone with two hands to type properly.
If you see people dropping food at an outdoor restaurant, please don’t think they are rude or uncouth, they might have a disability. Maybe they have essential tremor.
My neurologist said that while there are medications for it, there are side effects to those medications and that specifically for me, the side effects would be worse than how I experience essential tremor.
According to Wikipedia, "Actress Katharine Hepburn (1907–2003) had an essential tremor, which she inherited from her grandfather, that caused her head—and sometimes her hands—to shake. The tremor was noticeable by the time of her performance in the 1979 film The Corn is Green, when critics mentioned the palsy that kept her head trembling."
I remind myself to be grateful for all the positive and wonderful things in my life - shaky though it is now - and am slowing down to make allowances for Essential Tremor.
Do you have ET? How do you cope?