Ask Doctor K: Beta-blockers are effective treatment for essential tremor

Essential tremor is a permanent condition. Without treatment, the degree of tremor typically worsens with age. It also can expand from one part of the body to other parts over time.
BY DR. ANTHONY L. KOMAROFF Published: January 22, 2013
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DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been diagnosed with essential tremor. Can this condition improve, or will it only get worse?

DEAR READER: This condition definitely can improve with treatment. If you've been diagnosed with this disorder, I assume you have shaking movements of your hands, limbs, head or voice that you can't control. If you're like most people with this condition, it may come and go for reasons of its own.

Essential tremor is a permanent condition. Without treatment, the degree of tremor typically worsens with age. It also can expand from one part of the body to other parts over time.

There are many different neurological conditions that can cause tremor. Fortunately, essential tremor is one of the least serious and most easily treated.

The neurological condition that most of my patients worry about when they develop essential tremor is Parkinson's disease. But Parkinson's is very different from essential tremor: It is a serious disease that affects a person's ability to move. The tremors of Parkinson's disease are more noticeable at rest. In contrast, essential tremor is most noticeable when your body is in action. Most important, having essential tremor does not mean that you will get Parkinson's disease.

Essential tremor often begins in the dominant hand — usually the right hand, since most people are right-handers. You may have trouble with things like writing, typing or pouring a beverage. Essential tremor also can affect your head and cause your speech to tremble.

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