A tremor is an involuntary, rhythmic muscle contraction that results in shaking movements in one or more parts of the body. They most commonly affect the hands but can also occur in the arms, head, vocal cords or legs. Tremors can come and go, but they can also be constant. They can take place without reason or occur as a result of another disorder. While they are not life threatening, tremors can be debilitating, making it very difficult to perform many daily tasks.
Tremors are usually caused by a problem in the parts of the brain that control movement. Tremors typically appear in middle aged to older adults. They affect men and women equally and can run in families.
Tremors can occur on their own or be a symptom associated with a number of neurological disorders, including:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Traumatic brain injury
- Parkinson’s disease
Others reasons why someone may experience tremors include: a reaction to medications, alcohol abuse, anxiety disorders, mercury poisoning, an overactive thyroid, or liver or kidney failure. Some tremors may be triggered by or worsen during times of stress or strong emotion, when an individual is physically exhausted, or when a person is in certain postures or makes certain movements.
Tremors are classified into two main categories, resting or action; a resting tremor occurs when a person’s hands, arms, or legs shake when they are at rest. Often, the tremor only affects the hand or fingers and is often seen in people with Parkinson’s disease. An action tremor occurs with the voluntary movement of a muscle. Most types of tremors are considered action tremors.
A neurologist can diagnose a tremor during an physical examination and medical history based on:
- Whether tremors occur when the muscles are at rest or in action
- The location of the tremor on the body
- The frequency and severity of the tremor.
Your doctor will also check for other neurological abnormalities such as impaired balance or speech, or increased muscle stiffness. Blood or urine tests can rule out a thyroid malfunction, medication interaction or alcohol abuse as a cause. A CT Scan or MRI may be performed to determine if the tremor is the result of a brain injury and motor skill assessments can administered to determine functional limitations.
Although there is no cure for most forms of tremors, treatment options are available to help manage symptoms. In some cases, a person’s symptoms may be mild enough that they do not require treatment. In other cases, treating the underlying cause can reduce or eliminate the tremor. If no known cause is determined, medications, focused ultrasound, or surgery may be considered as treatment options.
To make an appointment with a doctor at Flushing Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center, please call 718-670-5486
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