Tremor - Treatments

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Are there any treatments for tremor?

There is no cure for most tremors.The appropriate treatment depends on accurate diagnosis of the cause.

Some tremors respond to treatment of the underlying condition. For example, in some cases of psychogenic tremor, treating the patient's underlying psychological problem may cause the tremor to disappear.

Symptomatic drug therapy is available for several forms of tremor. Drug treatment for parkinsonian tremor involves levodopa and/or dopamine-like drugs such as pramipexole and ropinirole. Other drugs used to lessen parkinsonian tremor include amantadine hydrochloride and anticholinergic drugs.

Essential tremor may be treated with propranolol or other beta blockers (such as nadolol) and primidone, an anticonvulsant drug.

Cerebellar tremor typically does not respond well to medical treatment.

Dystonic tremor may respond to clonazepam, anticholinergic drugs, and intramuscular injections of botulinum toxin. Botulinum toxin is also prescribed to treat voice and head tremors and several movement disorders.

Clonazepam and primidone may be prescribed for primary orthostatic tremor.

Enhanced physiologic tremor is usually reversible once the cause is corrected. If symptomatic treatment is needed, beta blockers can be used.

Eliminating tremor "triggers" such as caffeine and other stimulants from the diet is often recommended.

Physical therapy may help to reduce tremor and improve coordination and muscle control for some individuals. A physical therapist will evaluate the individual for tremor positioning, muscle control, muscle strength, and functional skills. Teaching the person to brace the affected limb during the tremor or to hold an affected arm close to the body is sometimes useful in gaining motion control. Coordination and balancing exercises may help some people. Some therapists recommend the use of weights, splints, other adaptive equipment, and special plates and utensils for eating.

Surgical intervention such as thalamotomy and deep brain stimulation may ease certain tremors. These surgeries are usually performed only when the tremor is severe and cannot be controlled satisfactorily with drugs.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS), the most common form of surgical treatment of tremor, uses implantable electrodes to send high-frequency electrical signals to the thalamus. A battery-operated device called a neurostimulator is used to deliver electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement. The person uses a hand-held magnet to turn on and turn off a pulse generator that is surgically implanted under the skin. The electrical stimulation temporarily disables the tremor and can be reversed, if necessary, by turning off the implanted electrode. Batteries in the generator last about 5 years and can be replaced surgically. DBS is currently used to treat parkinsonian tremor, essential tremor, and dystonia.

Thalamotomy, involving the creation of lesions in the brain region called the thalamus, is quite effective in treating individuals with essential, cerebellar, or parkinsonian tremor. This in-hospital procedure is performed under local anesthesia, with the individual being awake. After the person's head is secured in a metal frame, the surgeon maps the brain to locate the thalamus. A small hole is drilled through the skull and a temperature-controlled electrode is inserted into the thalamus. A low-frequency current is passed through the electrode to activate the tremor and to confirm proper placement. Once the site has been confirmed, the electrode is heated to create a temporary lesion. Testing is done to examine speech, language, coordination, and tremor activation, if any. If no problems occur, the probe is again heated to create a 3-mm permanent lesion. The probe, when cooled to body temperature, is withdrawn and the skull hole is covered. The lesion causes the tremor to permanently disappear without disrupting sensory or motor control.

The most common side effects of tremor surgery include dysarthria (problems with motor control of speech), temporary or permanent cognitive impairment (including visual and learning difficulties), and problems with balance.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: santi, 19-24 Female (Patient) Published: May 30

I"m 20 years old, I have problem with my hand. My hand is always shaky when I start working in the laboratory because I"m learning in college major chemistry education, it is so embarrassing but I don"t know what I have to do. I was prescribed fluoxetine 20 mg but nothing changed. I keep having same problem and the side effects of drugs gave me diarrhea, and I am increasingly tired, nauseated, and sweatier.

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Comment from: Debbie, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 22

I started noticing my tremor when I went through a very stressful time with my mother in the 80s. The nurse where I am employed told me to go to the doctor for treatment. I was told it is hereditary, which it does run in my family. I take 100 mg of primidone and 40 mg of propranolol per day, which keeps it under control. It affects my hands, head, and speech. What scares me is the fact that every time I go through something very stressful in my life I have to get an increase in medication so that people won't see my head and hands shaking, which is embarrassing. I don't know how much medicine is too much and if this medication will always control my tremor. I am sure that one day my tremor will no longer be able to be controlled, because you can only take so much medication. That to me is scary.

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