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Do you or someone in your family have hands that tremble? Do you or someone you know, deal with shakes and tremors daily? Are the simple, everyday tasks of life becoming more difficult due to shaking hands?  And it gets worse as you grow older. This is the story of my life, as I live it every day.

I don’t dare carry a cup of coffee or a glass of water from the kitchen to my computer desk or anywhere for that matter.

It’s impossible for me to take photographs with any kind of camera; they are always blurred due to my shaking hands.

Turning the pages of a book is difficult and sometimes I turn two or three at once and have to go back and start over again. When I finally achieve the page I want, it’s a victory! Kindle has become a favorite way to read, though I love the feel of paper and the scent of the pages wafting up to me from a paper book.

When I eat, it’s almost like playing a game of “catch the fork,” or the other fun one of “How much of this food can I wear?”

I’m no longer able to hand write anything, and barely able to sign “Love, Mom” or “Love, Granny” to birthday and Christmas cards.

I use a label program on my computer for addressing envelopes. As for most relatives or friends, they get cards from me only online, except on rare occasions.

I’m grateful for knowing how to use a computer because it’s my primary method of communication with family and friends. Without that knowledge, I’d be unable to stay in touch with them, because handwriting anything longer than two words is impossible.

Finally, I try very hard not to take it too seriously. Yes it’s aggravating, yes sometimes it’s embarrassing, and yes I wish I didn’t have it. But face it folks, there are a lot worse things in this world that can happen to you. Keep your sense of humor. When your family teases, laugh along with them, after all, the last laugh may be on them when they have the same problem years from now!

So is your curiosity aroused? Here’s a book written by someone affected by this condition that you might be interested to read.

I Can’t Stop Shaking

I’m Sure By Now You’re Wondering….

If you’re wondering “What on earth is this woman talking about?” here’s the answer. I have a condition that is known as Familial Tremors or Essential Tremors. My family knows this, but few of my online writing colleagues and friends do, so this may be a revelation to some.

I’ve Lived With It For Years

That’s right, it’s nothing new for me. I’ve had this condition for several years, but it’s worsened as I’ve aged. Oddly enough, it seems to affect my right hand more than my left, and since I’m right handed that’s not a good thing. In my young years, I was able to partially control it or mask it, but now that’s no longer possible. I carry things more in my left hand now than before, because it doesn’t shake so much. When we go out to eat, I worry about having a glass of wine, afraid people will think I’m an alcoholic or a drug addict. Even if I don’t have the wine, I worry about the same thing. But I go, and I do my best to enjoy these things with my family. If others nearby want to judge me, let them. I’ll go anyway!

Essential Tremor: The Facts (The Facts Series)

What Causes Familial Tremor?

There is no exact cause pinpointed at this time. There is speculation that a part of the brain that controls muscle movements, in the portion of the brain called the cerebellum, does not work properly in people with familial tremor.  But there isn’t an agreement between medical experts on the subject at this time. Research, of course, continues, but because it isn’t a widespread ailment, the money isn’t there for extensive research. Maybe someday……

However, there are things that people do to THEMSELVES that CAN cause shakes that mimic Familial or Essential Tremors. These include a history of using drugs, alcohol or steroids to excess.

Human brain showing cerebellum in blue at the base.

Human brain showing cerebellum in blue at the base.

Photo Credit

What’s the Difference Between Familial and Essential Tremor?

If there are no others in your family who have the shakes and tremors, yours would be called “Essential.” If there are others in your family who have the condition, it is then known as “Familial,” meaning that it is passed on genetically.

If you need more info on Essential or Familial Tremors to keep on hand to help you understand and explain your condition, try any book on this page, they all have excellent advice to guide you. But DO see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

An Introduction to Essential Tremor

Is Familial or Essential Tremor Related To Parkinson’s Disease?

It is not known to be related to Parkinson’s or to any other neurological condition that causes tremors. If YOU have shaky, uncontrollable hands, by all means see your doctor and get an accurate diagnosis. Familial/Essential tremor is NOT treated the same as other conditions, so it’s important to know for sure.

Need Some Help Carrying That Coffee?

Oh, and if you’re looking for a good thermal cup that doesn’t leak when you tip it while carrying, or even drop it,  I can vouch for the one below.  I found that the simple task of bringing a cup of coffee with me into my home office from the kitchen is a cautious task at best, and a total mess at worst. Some days I can manage to actually have coffee in my cup when I get to my desk, HA, success!  But the solution of course, is to use a covered carafe, or a thermal cup with a no leak top. I prefer the cup, because the coffee stays hot longer. Not only that, but it’s safer, no danger of burning myself.

Thermos King Stainless Steel 16 Ounce Travel Mug with Handle, Midnight Blue

There Are Medications For Tremor

A few years back my doctor put me on a medication originally designed to help with convulsions, but which is also used to aid the lessening of tremors. My tremors had become so bad that not only did my hands shake, but also my head. A disconcerting sight to someone who was speaking to me, when, as our conversation continued, my head would begin to quiver like a peony flower in the breeze.

The medication was first begun with a low dosage, but after about a year, the doctor saw fit to increase it. It is only taken at night when I’m going to bed, because it does tend to put me to sleep. It has an accumulative effect, providing better results over a period of taking the drug. I understand the need not to take another medication as we grow older, so if you don’t want to have another medicine to take, let your doctor know. Maybe there’s an alternative out there for you. One caution:  DO be wary of taking any medication found online for this condition without your doctor’s diagnosis and knowledge of your using it. Then, and only then, if you are diagnosed with Familial/Essential Tremor, ask him/her about Primidone, or any other medication they may prefer for the condition.

Some People Opt For Surgery

Surgery is an option for some people, but only under certain conditions. For instance, I am not a candidate for surgery since I have advanced emphysema/COPD of some 20-plus years. There are two surgical procedures now currently being performed, each with their own side effects and risks. The first is to place a surgical lesion on a part of the brain known as the ventral intermediate thalamus (VIM.) It is successful in 80 to 90 percent of patients but has the drawback of increased risk of developing speech problems. The second procedure is known as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS.) This involves three steps;  Preoperative Assessment, The Implanted System, and Programming of the Deep Brain Stimulator. This procedure is reversible and controllable. There is no guarantee the tremors will be completely relieved with this surgery, and patients sometimes have to return several times for the device to be re-programmed. In the end, the results have shown that 80 to 90 percent have seen a significant reduction in tremor without other side effects.

Other Diseases That Mimic This One

If I miss my meds for any reason, and I do my best not to,  my entire body shakes as though I have what the old folks in my childhood home called “St. Vitus Dance,” which is actually Sydenham’s Chorea, another movement disorder. As far as I know, there has never been a connection between the two. Parkinson’s Disease, is another ailment that causes uncontrollable movement, caused by a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Again, there has never been a connection between Parkinson’s and Familial or Essential Tremors. Other diseases that CAN mimic Tremors include Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, Mercury Poisoning, Overactive Thyroid and Liver failure. There’s also never been a connection with any of these conditions to Familial/Essential Tremor.

Why Is This Called “Familial” or Essential Tremors?

These tremors are often referred to as Familial or Essential Tremors because they usually run in families. It’s thought to be a genetic mutation and is dominant, meaning it does not take two parents having it for their child to have it.  I can remember my mother as she aged, and I watched her hands shaking. I didn’t realize it wasn’t due to her age, but to this disorder. I’m sure she didn’t know it either. Now I see the signs of early tremor in two of my children, a son and a daughter. They didn’t show the symptoms when they were little, but developed them in their young adult years, just as I have. I’m sure as they grow older, they will have the same problems I do. There are young children who have Essential Tremor, and you can find more about it at the links I’ve provided at the end of this page.

Read more about this condition at these links: 


Essential Tremor Basics: Mayo Clinic

WebMD on Essential Tremor

Johns-Hopkins Medicine Movement Disorders