What is the Difference between the Essential tremors and Parkinson’s Tremors?

Essential tremors and Parkinson’s tremors

According to Mayo Clinic, essential tremors are neurological disorders which produce involuntary as well as rhythmic shaking. Essential tremors (ET) is one of the nervous system disorders but in this case, the ET is characterized by the involuntary shaking of some parts of the body. ET can affect any part of your body particularly your hands when performing simple tasks. The disorder is noticeable especially when drinking using a glass, eating food with a spoon or when tying your shoelaces. It might not be a dangerous condition but it gets worse with time. Sometimes it is confused with Parkinson’s disease and can affect anyone at any age particularly those aged 40 and older.  Essential tremor is eight times more common in occurrence than Parkinson’s disease.

Symptoms of Essential tremors

A tremor that begins on one side of the body and slowly extends to the other

Can be aggravated by emotional stress, caffeine and extreme temperatures

Common drugs that may cause ET  according to the BMJ journals include:

  • Nicotine
  • Thyroxine
  • Neuroleptics
  • Nifedipine
  • Valproic acid

On the other hand, Parkinson’s disease is termed as a progressive nervous system disorder that normally affects the movement. Its symptoms start gradually with a minor tremor in one of your hands before affecting the other one. This condition causes stiffness or slowing down of some movements in your arms. At the beginning of PD, your face may show very little or no expression, the arms may fail to swing while walking and the speech may become slurred.

However, PD and ET differ in different ways based on many factors. For instance, the timing of tremors is different for both conditions. Essential tremors of your hands are noticed when you are using your hands say for example when writing, eating or shaking hands, while tremor from PD is more prominent when the hands are resting on your laps, or at your sides. Essential tremor does not lead to other health problems but when it comes to Parkinson’s disease, those affected may experience a stooped posture, shuffling gait and slow movement. Lastly, the ET involves your hands, voice and head, whereas PD tremors start in the hands, legs, chin and some other parts of your body.

How to test if you have Parkinson’s tremor

There is no specific way to test and diagnose Parkinson’s disease. But your physician or neurologist can diagnose PD by following your medical history, symptoms, physical and neurological examination. In extreme cases, your doctor might suggest for you to undergo a single-photon-emission-computerized-tomography scan (SPECT) known as dopamine transporter (DAT) scan. As much as this scanning might help, it is only the symptoms and neurologic analysis that can determine the right diagnosis. Other tests include blood and imaging tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

Types of Parkinson’s tremors

Parkinsonism is a general term that encompasses a range of conditions with similar symptoms to PD. Therefore, the following are different types of PD known to affect most people:

  • Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease
  • Vascular Parkinsonism
  • Drug-induced Parkinsonism
  • Multiple system atrophy(MSA)
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy(PSP)
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus

Medication for Parkinson’s tremors

Medication for PD may help you in managing problems associated with walking, tremor and movement. In fact, these medications are crucial in increasing or substituting for dopamine. According to the researchers, those with PD are known to have less brain dopamine concentrations. But dopamine cannot be induced directly to those affected due to the fact that it cannot enter the brain. That is why the following medications are prescribed by the doctor to control PD. They include:

  • Carbidopa-levodopa
  • Carbidopa-levodopa infusion
  • Dopamine agonists
  • MAO B inhibitors
  • Catechol O-methyltransferase inhibitors
  • Anticholinergics
  • Amantadine

Given that Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor seem to affect people in almost the same way, the two conditions are different. With proper medication, those afflicted with any of the two disorders can lead normal lives just like other people.