Secondary navigation

Have a question? Call 888-402-LVHN (5846) Contact Us
Magnifying glass

Main navigation

Utility Nav

Secondary navigation

Lehigh Valley Children's Hospital

Search LVHN

Tremor

Learn about tremors and their various types, causes, signs and symptoms, and treatment, and how the LVHN neurology team can care for you.

A tremor is an involuntary, repetitive, rhythmic shaking or twitching movement. Tremors usually affect the hands and head but may occasionally occur in the feet or torso.

Essential tremor, which sometimes runs in families, is one of the most common types of tremors. It causes shaking that is most noticeable when the person is doing something like lifting a cup or pointing at an object. The tremor also may affect the person’s voice. The shaking caused by essential tremor occurs when a person moves and affects a person’s daily functions. Medications can help reduce the shaking.

Essential tremor is a neurological disorder that causes the hands, head, trunk, voice or legs to shake rhythmically. It is often confused with Parkinson’s disease. Essential tremor is the most common trembling disorder people experience.

Who is affected by essential tremor?

Essential tremor is most common among people older than 60, but it can affect people at any age. Although the cause is unknown, one theory is that the cerebellum and other parts of the brain are not communicating correctly. The cerebellum is a part of the brain that controls muscle coordination.

In most people, the condition seems to be passed down from parent to child. Other neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease or dystonia may also cause tremor. Since essential tremor may be mistaken for these other diseases, careful diagnosis by a neurologist is important.

Other causes of tremor

Tremors also can be caused by caffeine and medical conditions or medications that affect the nervous system, such as liver failure and other medical illnesses.

Treatment and next steps

Depending on the cause of essential tremor, your treatment can vary. For some people, avoiding potential contributors, such as caffeine, nicotine and/or alcohol, can help. Stress also can play a role, so stress relaxation techniques may help.

If your quality of life is negatively affected by essential tremor, speak with your LVHN primary care provider or neurology provider for guidance. Treatment options for essential tremor can include medications. For essential tremor in the hands, botulinum toxin injections have shown some promise. For severe tremors, surgical options including deep brain stimulation, may help.