Essential Tremor

Essential tremor (ET), also known as familial tremor, benign essential tremor or hereditary tremor, causes rhythmic trembling in different parts of the body, usually the hands, head, voice, legs or trunk. ET affects about 4% of people aged 40 and older. Often this condition is confused with Parkinson's disease. However, Parkinson’s tremor occurs at rest, while the tremor of ET occurs during activity. In addition, Parkinson’s disease patients exhibit other abnormalities including rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking. While there is no cure, tremor that is extremely disabling and not relieved by medication may be treated with deep brain stimulation that targets the thalamus.

ET is caused by abnormal communication between certain areas of the brain, including the cerebellum, thalamus and brain stem. In the majority of people with ET, the tremor seems to be inherited, and more than half of cases have a family history. Not everyone who inherits a gene develops symptoms, however, and some people have ET and do not have a family history. Quality of life is impacted, since daily activities such as feeding, drinking, grooming and writing are affected. Since the symptoms can cause embarrassment, many affected people become isolated.

There are few effective medications available and they are estimated to benefit less than 60% of people with ET. Deep brain stimulation can be very effective in reducing the tremors of ET.

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A deep brain stimulation system (DBS) delivers electrical impulses to specific brain areas to restore the balance of circuits that are disrupted, overcoming abnormal activity . . .

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Surgery is only one step in the process of undergoing deep brain stimulation therapy . . .


Reviewed April 2, 2012
Jaimie M. Henderson, MD
Director-at-Large, International Neuromodulation Society, 2011 - 2014
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, and, By Courtesy, of Neurology and Neurological Sciences; Robert and Ruth Halperin Faculty Scholar; Director, Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery; Co-Director, Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory; Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA

Last Updated on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 11:49 AM