Essential Tremor

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Diagnosing and Treating Essential Tremor

There is currently no diagnostic test available to identify essential tremor. The diagnosis is usually based upon the symptoms and clinical exam, as well as the absence of other findings that could provide an alternative explanation for the tremors. Some diseases can have tremors similar to essential tremor, and it is important to make sure that there is no other evidence of these as a cause of the disorder.

The symptoms of essential tremor are often similar to the symptoms of other conditions, and it is frequently misdiagnosed for Parkinson’s disease. Skilled doctors who specialize in the treatment of essential tremor are the best practitioners to see for an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnostic tests can help the doctor identify or rule out other conditions, therefore ensuring proper diagnosis and treatment.

NEWS: Find out more about
Weill Cornell Medicine's pioneering work using
Focused Ultrasound for Essential Tremor

Treatment Options

While there is no cure for essential tremor, there are treatments that significantly improve symptoms. Sometimes milder cases of essential tremor require no treatment.

The most common treatments for the condition include:

Medications: There are oral medications that can help with the tremor. These generally help to either reduce stress in the body or quiet the brain in order to slow the abnormal activity that causes essential tremor.

Therapy: Regular physical and speech therapy can help a patient to manage and improve the symptoms of essential tremor.

Surgery: Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to treat essential tremor. Lesioning may be an option for those who for some reason are not good candidates for DBS surgery. Lesioning is an older procedure that is used much less frequently today because it is generally not as well tolerated and not as effective in most patient as DBS. For more information, see Surgery for Essential Tremor.

The Movement Disorders service of the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center is a leader in the diagnosis and treatment of essential tremor. Led by pioneering researcher and neurosurgeon Michael Kaplitt, M.D., Ph.D., the Movement Disorder service provides state-of-the-art options for essential tremor treatment, including minimally invasive deep brain stimulation surgery. (See Surgery for Essential Tremor.)

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Reviewed by Michael Kaplitt, MD, PhD
Last reviewed/last updated: April 2017