Distinguishing Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease

While most people are familiar with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), Essential Tremor (ET) is much more common1.

If you are experiencing shaking of your hands, a neurologist specializing in movement disorders can perform testing to diagnose your condition. This may include holding your arms straight out in front of your body, touching your finger to your nose, and drawing spirals on a piece of paper. Additional testing or imaging scans may also be required as part of the diagnosis.

While only a qualified physician can provide a diagnosis, there are several key symptoms that differentiate Essential Tremor from other conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease.

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Get a Grip on Essential Tremor

Essential Tremor (ET) is a neurological condition that causes shaking of the hands, head and voice, but it can also cause legs and trunk to shake. Some people even have a feeling of internal tremor.

The cause of essential tremor is not fully understood, but clinical research has identified the Vim nucleus of the thalamus as the spot in the brain which can be targeted to treat the tremor.

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Parkinson’s Disease and Tremors

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative disorder which results from the malfunction and/or loss of brain cells responsible for movement and coordination. Key symptoms include tremor, rigidity, slow movement (bradykinesia) and postural instability.

In an estimated up to 26% of PD patients, the primary symptom is tremor2. These patients initially have tremor and as the disease progresses, they may experience other symptoms. There are patients who report that tremor remains the symptom with the most severe impact on their daily activities.3

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2Grosset, D. (2009). Clinical diagnosis of parkinsonism and tremor. In M. Okun, K. Grosset, H. Fernandez, D. Grosset (Eds.), Parkinson’s Disease: Clinican’s Desk Reference (pp. 33). Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.

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