People tend to fear the worst when their once-steady hands start to tremble or shake. This can happen at any age, but is more likely the older you get.
Our first reaction is to think the worst, and assume Parkinson’s disease or some other movement disorder. However, it’s more likely that the tremor is an essential tremor. How can you tell the difference? Generally, an essential tremor is seen while the hands are in motion – for example, eating, or writing. A Parkinson’s tremor occurs when the hands are at rest – for example, resting in your lap. This distinction is true for a majority of patients, but there are always exceptions so it is important to see a neurologist for diagnosis. Some tremors can be a side effect of certain medications, like mood stabilizers, asthma and seizure medications. Talk to your doctor is you suspect your medication might be causing a tremor.
If it is an essential tremor, your neurologist will likely recommend some lifestyle changes. Stress is a major cause of essential tremors, so your doctor will work with you on ways to reduce stress. Tremors have a snowball effect on patients. When their hands shake, they might feel embarrassed or get frustrated at the increased difficulty in completing tasks, which increases stress and makes the hands shake even more. So it’s important to avoid these triggers and learn how to relax yourself when this happens.
- You might notice times of day when your tremors are worse. Take note of this and try to schedule your hand activity when you have more steady hands. If you are steadier in the morning, use that time to pay bills, or do some writing.
- Avoid caffeine as this can make tremors worse.
- If eating is difficult, try modifying your utensils. Some patients find that longer, heavier silverware helps steady their hands. If drinking from a cup is difficult, try a travel mug or water bottle.
- Switch to Velcro closure shoes, or slip on styles if tying your shoes becomes difficult.
When you notice a tremor, talk to your doctor right away. He or she can help identify ways to treat it. While there are medications that can help, they are not without possible side effects. Usually, the first step is making some lifestyle modifications to reduce stress and see if tremors improve. There is also surgery that can improve your tremor, but it’s not a guarantee that the tremor will completely go away.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
- parkinson's tremors