Herbert Tanner is a man in motion.
“Come down here and play pool here every day,” says Herbert Tanner. He’s always moving, whether he chooses to or not.
“Well if I don’t use it I go into shaking in my right arm, real bad. And I can’t do anything with it. I can’t stop it,” says Tanner.
His tremors are a symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Not to be mistaken for a more common disorder called essential tremor.
“Essential tremor is a disorder of the brain. There are some abnormal signals in the brain that miscommunicates with the hands and the muscles and specifically muscles in the hands. People’s muscles are totally normal,” says Dr. Amanda Avila, neurologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Essential tremors are rhythmic shakes, most noticeable when someone is trying to use their fine motor skills.
“Tremors can interfere with the ability for people to write legibility. Other things are getting dressed in the morning, specifically buttoning or zipping or putting on make up or fastening jewelry. People also have trouble with eating,” says Dr. Avila.
On the other hand, Parkinson’s patients like Tanner, have resting tremors. Which come on when they aren’t doing anything.
“I used to try to stop it, I’d put it in my pocket. It doesn’t go away,” says Tanner.
While tremors link the two conditions, there are several things that set them apart. Parkinson’s patients also have rigid muscles, weakness in the face and throat that cause lack of expression and along with slow, soft speech. And trouble with walking and balance.
Parkinson’s stems from a deficiency of dopamine in the brain. Essential tremor is thought to result from faulty neurological impulses. A variety of treatments are available to alleviate essential tremors.
“If the tremor is very mild we usually just prescribe or suggest occupational therapy. If the tremor is a little more bothersome, there are a variety of medications and some of them work very well,” says Dr. Avila.
Severe cases may benefit from deep brain stimulation. All options to help people get a grip on their shaking.