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Tuning into a Tremor Disorder: November 30, 2012

“It flinches more early in the morning before I ever get up,” says Leo Oknefski.

Essential tremors. They are ten times more common than Parkinson’s disease. And as Oknefski learned, the shaking gets worse with age.

“Yeah, it’s more pronounced now. Of course it starts out you hardly notice it really,” says Oknefski.

Oknefski takes his trembling hands in stride.

“I’m not really embarrassed by this because I do so many things in life and I’ve got so many good friends,” says Oknefski.

“The hands by far are the most common place where people have tremor. The next most common is the head tremor. Something called the ‘no no’ tremor where the head rocks back and fourth and this can be annoying to a lot of patients,” says Dr. Amanda Avila, neurologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

The uncontrollable movements don’t originate in the muscles. Essential tremors are a neurological disorder.

“There are some abnormal signals in the brain and that miscommunicates with the hands and the muscles. And that causes the tremor and causes most of the trouble. People’s muscles are totally normal,” says Dr. Avila.

Tremors are for the most part benign. Meaning they don’t cause any harm. But there is a danger the shaking may be a symptom something else.

“Many times tremor is a result of another medical condition, like an abnormal thyroid or a side effect of other medications. It’s helpful to be aware that treating that underlying cause can very effectively treat the tremor or eliminate it altogether,” says Dr. Avila.

Tremor treatments include therapy, medications, even deep brain stimulation. But it’s important to get a proper diagnosis before deciding your next move.