Essential tremor is a neurological problem that results in tremors (shakiness), usually of the hands and arms, writes Dr. William Weiner, professor and chairman of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the school's Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center.
* There is no known cause for essential tremor, although it sometimes runs in families. The onset of the tremor can be in adolescence or later in life. Most people with essential tremor experience very gradual worsening of the tremor over decades. The most common initial symptom is a slight shaking of the hands when reaching for an object or holding a cup. Essential tremor never begins abruptly as a severe tremor.
* Essential tremor is sometimes confused with Parkinson's disease. In most people, the tremor in the two disorders is completely different. People with essential tremor have their most pronounced symptoms when reaching for things (doctors call this an action or kinetic tremor). In Parkinson's disease, patients develop a resting tremor, which occurs when the hand is not being used. In fact, the resting tremor in Parkinson's disease usually disappears when the patient reaches for an object. Essential tremor is an isolated symptom, meaning that there is no weakness, slowness or stiffness associated with it. Of course, the initial onset of a tremor is a cause for concern and should be evaluated by a doctor.