A tremor is a trembling of the body which cannot be controlled by the sufferer. It can affect any part of the body, but it most frequently affects the hands. The condition is commonly found in people over 40, but it can strike at any age. Once affected, the sufferer normally finds that the condition progressively worsens over time.
Everybody, whatever their age and health status, will notice slight movement if they hold their hands out in front of them. However, it becomes a medical concern if it becomes severe enough to interfere with everyday activities. The loss of control can be quite upsetting for the sufferer, causing them to seek treatment.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to cure a tremor completely. In fact, if the condition is mild then your doctor may not recommend treatment at all, instead opting to monitor the problem until the symptoms get worse. But if the tremors are moderate to severe, there are ways you can improve the symptoms so that they do not affect your daily activities.
In more severe cases, a doctor may prescribe a drug such as primidone and propranolol to lessen the trembling. These medications work in up to 70 percent of cases and noticeably reduce tremors for up to 8 hours after each dose. However, they cannot be considered a complete cure because the symptoms will return as soon as the patient ceases to take their medication.
Another medication which can potentially be used is an anticonvulsant, which will often be prescribed alongside primidone. Anticonvulsants are usually used to treat medical problems such as epilepsy, but because the drugs act on the brain they also have other effects such as lessening shaking. These cannot be taken by people with blood pressure problems as one of the side effects is low blood pressure.
Sometimes, sedatives such as alprazolam can be effective for reducing tremors. However, this is only true of patients for whom anxiety is exacerbating the symptoms. Doctors also tend to view sedatives as a short term solution because they are addictive. Which is why many people consider more natural alternatives such as herbal supplements like extracts of skullcap.
Around a quarter of patients do not respond to medication. If their tremor is very severe, this means that a doctor may recommend surgery instead. Usually this will involve deep brain stimulation, where electrodes are connected to the thalamus region of the brain. These create a constant pulse which modifies the brain waves and reduces the shaking. Although the results are not always perfect, most patients find that the tremor is reduced by around 90 percent.
An alternative to deep brain stimulation is thalamotomy. This is a more permanent solution as a small incision is made in the thalamus, rather than controlling the brain via electrodes. Because the procedure cannot be reversed it is considered riskier than deep brain stimulation, but it does negate the need for battery changes and follow up appointments.
A tremor can be a very distressing condition. If you find that a tremor is affecting your daily life, speak to your doctor about treatment options.