Some people with essential tremor don't require treatment if their symptoms are mild. But if your essential tremor is making it difficult to work or perform daily activities, discuss treatment options with your doctor.
- Beta blockers. Normally used to treat high blood pressure, beta blockers such as propranolol (Inderal) help relieve tremors in some people. Beta blockers may not be an option if you have asthma or certain heart problems. Side effects may include fatigue, lightheadedness or heart problems.
- Anti-seizure medications. Epilepsy drugs, such as primidone (Mysoline), may be effective in people who don't respond to beta blockers. Other medications that might be prescribed include gabapentin (Gralise, Neurontin) and topiramate (Topamax, Qudexy XR). Side effects include drowsiness and nausea, which usually disappear within a short time.
- Tranquilizers. Doctors may use drugs such as alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (Klonopin) to treat people for whom tension or anxiety worsens tremors. Side effects can include fatigue or mild sedation. These medications should be used with caution because they can be habit-forming.
OnabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) injections. Botox injections might be useful in treating some types of tremors, especially head and voice tremors. Botox injections can improve tremors for up to three months at a time.
However, if Botox is used to treat hand tremors, it can cause weakness in your fingers. If it's used to treat voice tremors, it can cause a hoarse voice and difficulty swallowing.
Doctors might suggest physical or occupational therapy. Physical therapists can teach you exercises to improve your muscle strength, control and coordination.
Occupational therapists can help you adapt to living with essential tremor. Therapists might suggest adaptive devices to reduce the effect of tremors on your daily activities, including:
- Heavier glasses and utensils
- Wrist weights
- Wider, heavier writing tools, such as wide-grip pens
Deep brain stimulation might be an option if your tremors are severely disabling and you don't respond to medications.
In deep brain stimulation, doctors insert a long, thin electrical probe into the portion of your brain that causes your tremors (thalamus). A wire from the probe runs under your skin to a pacemaker-like device (neurostimulator) implanted in your chest. This device transmits painless electrical pulses to interrupt signals from your thalamus that may be causing your tremors.
Side effects of surgery can include equipment malfunction; problems with motor control, speech or balance; headaches; and weakness. Side effects often go away after some time or adjustment of the device.
Jan. 20, 2016
- NINDS essential tremor information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/essential_tremor/essential_tremor.htm. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.
- Facts about essential tremor. International Essential Tremor Foundation. http://www.essentialtremor.org/free-downloads/. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.
- Tarsy D. Surgical treatment of essential tremor. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.
- Tarsy D. Overview of tremor. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 12, 2015.
- What is essential tremor? Genetics Home Reference. http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/essential-tremor/. Accessed Nov. 12, 2015.
- Tarsy D. Pharmacologic treatment of essential tremor. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 12, 2015.
- Essential tremor (ET) patient handbook. International Essential Tremor Foundation. http://www.essentialtremor.org/free-downloads/. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.
- Essential tremor (ET) coping tips for everyday living. International Essential Tremor Foundation. http://www.essentialtremor.org/free-downloads/. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.