Healthy Geezer: Essential to cope with essential tremor
Q. I heard that Botox can help if you have shaky hands. Is that true?
“Shaky hands” is a symptom of “essential tremor,” which is the most common movement disorder. The medical community calls it “essential” because it isn’t linked to other diseases.
Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) injections, popular for ironing wrinkles, is used to treat muscle spasms and tremors caused by diseases such as multiple sclerosis and neurological conditions such as muscle spasms of the neck, shoulders and face.
Botox is used to treat hand tremors. Injections can bring relief for up to three months. However, if Botox is used to treat hand tremors, it can cause weakness in your fingers.
Essential tremor (ET) is often confused with Parkinson’s disease. Unlike Parkinson’s disease, however, ET doesn’t lead to serious complications. Parkinson’s is associated with a stooped posture, slow movement, a shuffling gait and other difficulties.
Not all tremors are ET. There are more than 20 kinds of tremors. For instance, excessive caffeine, alcohol withdrawal, problems with thyroid or copper metabolism or the use of certain medications may cause tremor.
A genetic mutation is responsible for about half of all cases of ET. The only other known risk factor is older age. Although ET can affect people of all ages, it usually appears in middle age or later. Men and women are affected equally.
Abnormal communication within the brain causes ET. There is no cure as yet for this disorder.
Tremor is an involuntary movement of one or more parts of the body. Most tremors occur in the hands. Tremors can also show up in the arms, head, face, vocal cords, trunk and legs.
Victims of tremors usually get them when they make a delicate movement such as writing with a pen or tying shoelaces. Tremors usually disappear when a person is resting.
Some people have relatively mild tremors throughout their lives, but others develop more severe tremors and increased disability.
Most people with ET don’t need treatment. The effects of the condition can be eased by avoiding what aggravates the problem: lack of sufficient sleep, anxiety, stimulants such as caffeine and temperature extremes.
Drinking alcohol can calm tremors for up to one hour after consumption. However, tremors tend to worsen when the alcohol wears off. Physical therapy and exercise can develop more stability in hands that shake.
There are other medications besides Botox that can bring relief. These include beta blockers normally used to treat high blood pressure, anti-seizure medications and tranquilizers.
If tremors are severe and drugs don’t help, surgical procedures are available.
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